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

Friday, August 17, 2007

End of the Clown's Days?

The Joey "The Clown" Lombardo who testified Tuesday in his own defense was the boss of nothing, in his own mind.

Street boss, what street boss? Clown, what clown?

He was just an old man with a gray face in a gray suit with a cane, pushing 80, working his jaw, his tongue fishing some flecks of lunch out of his gums as he sat in the witness box, taking the one chance left to him in this historic Family Secrets trial of the Chicago Outfit in federal court:

To convince the jury he wasn't the Joey Lombardo of legend, but instead a humble shoeshine boy from the old neighborhood who hustled a bit for extra cash.

Lombardo said he grew up on the West Side, that his father worked at the Tribune in some unspecified capacity, and that Joe later took fencing lessons in high school, played handball, even rollerbladed in later years, ending up with a small interest in a floating craps game while running minor errands for bail bondsman and Outfit wiretapper Irwin Weiner.

Lombardo didn't kill anyone, he insisted. He wasn't the boss of anything. He wasn't a made member of the Outfit, which forms the base of the triangle that runs the town. Politicians, Lombardo said, were the real hoodlums.

"There's 50 bosses in Chicago," Lombardo said, "The 50 bosses are the 50 aldermen; without them you can't get anything done. If you want zoning, you see the alderman. If you want to run a card game, you go see the alderman. If you want a dice game, go see the alderman."

In Lombardo's mind, what does that make the boss of all the aldermen, that guy I used to call Mayor Fredo, who sits on the 5th Floor of City Hall? I couldn't ask Lombardo, since he's only talking from the witness stand.

The last time I tried speaking to Lombardo was years ago, at Bella Notte, a nice Italian restaurant on Grand Avenue, just after former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt was indicted for running an Outfit-sanctioned jewelry-heist ring. I wanted to ask Lombardo about Hanhardt, another friend of the Outfit-connected Weiner. But before I could saunter over to Lombardo's table, he snapped his fingers, the busboys shoveled his food into containers and he walked out. The manager trotted over and said I was sadly mistaken if I thought he catered to clowns.

"Clown? Clown? What are you talking about, clown? What clown?" the manager said.

Well, wasn't that the Clown? "No, that was Mr. Irwin Goldman," the manager said, forgetting to explain why Mr. Goldman was wearing a St. Dismas medallion -- the Good Thief crucified next to Christ -- around his neck.

That was sure amusing, but Lombardo is weirdly amusing, and when he testified in court on Tuesday he got a laugh when he talked about shining shoes as a boy. Gamblers would tip him a dollar. The cops only gave him a nickel. "They were very cheap people," said Lombardo, and there was a loud chuckle in the courtroom, prompting U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel to admonish other lawyers laughing at Lombardo's wisecracks.

Rick Halprin, the seasoned criminal lawyer whose job it is to try and keep Lombardo from dying in prison, took a gamble in putting Lombardo on the stand. Halprin had no real choice, with Lombardo's fingerprint on the title application from a car used in the killing of Danny Seifert, a Lombardo partner-turned-federal witness in 1974. That fingerprint has an itch the Outfit can't scratch. It waits, still, quiet, filed, hanging over Lombardo's head.

In 1974, Seifert was killed in front of his family. Seifert was the key witness in the federal case against Lombardo. The case against him exploded the way Seifert exploded, when the shotguns came out. Halprin had to gamble the jury would see a cane in the fingers of the grandpa on the stand, not a shotgun.

The other accused Outfit bosses and soldiers on trial must be thinking that now they've got to follow him up there, too, and swear another oath, this one before God. They watched Lombardo in cold blood. There was Paul "The Indian" Schiro, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle, accused of warning the Outfit when the FBI began investigating the 18 formerly unsolved mob killings that are part of this landmark case.

Their eyes black, their heads framed against black leather courtroom chairs, they leaned back and watched the shoeshine boy. Their chins rested on fists, they took deep breaths, their eyes sponging up the light of the world.

Halprin: "On Sept. 27, 1974, did you kill Danny Seifert?"

Lombardo: "Positively, no."

Halprin: "Have you ever been a capo or a made member of the Chicago Outfit?"

Lombardo: "Positively, no."

The old man pushed that second "positively, no" too quickly past his choppers, the delivery was rushed, so it fell in front of the jury with a thunk, like a car trunk slamming shut in a lonely parking lot.

There wasn't anything amusing about it.

It wasn't funny, like a clown.

It was desperate, an old man holding his cane, seeing the end of days.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, August 13, 2007

Feds Rest Their Case at Family Secrets Trial

Federal prosecutors rested their case Monday at the racketeering trial of alleged mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and four other reputed members of the Chicago underworld.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel quickly denied requests by the defendants for immediate acquittal and began setting the stage for perhaps a week of defense witnesses -- including Lombardo himself -- at Chicago's biggest mob trial in years. "It's quite plain that all of these motions for acquittal at the end of the government's case must be denied and I deny them," Zagel said.

Besides the 78-year-old Lombardo, those on trial are James Marcello, 65, Frank Calabrese, 69, Paul Schiro, 70, and Anthony Doyle, 62.

They are charged with operating Chicago's organized crime family -- known as the Chicago Outfit -- as a racketeering enterprise that included gambling, extortion, loan sharking and 18 long-unsolved murders.

Among those murdered was Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, for years the mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the movie "Casino." He and his brother Michael were beaten and strangled in 1986 and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Lombardo plans to take the witness stand in his own defense sometime this week, attorneys said. Defense attorneys for Calabrese and Doyle did not rule out the possibility that their clients also could testify.

Lombardo's defense is based on the claim that, after serving years in prison for attempting to bribe a U.S. senator and involvement in Las Vegas casino skimming, he swore he would never take part in any further crimes.

Zagel said he would allow Lombardo to talk about his withdrawal from a life of crime despite grumbling from prosecutors that it amounted to letting him vouch for his own good behavior.

On cross examination, prosecutors are guaranteed to ask him why he went on the lam for months after the indictment was unsealed. He was arrested after FBI agents cornered him in an Elmwood Park alley.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Career Burglar, Sal Romano, Admits to Bribing Cops

A career burglar with ties to the mob testified today in the Family Secrets case that he indirectly bribed police through Chicago attorneys, including Sam Banks, the brother of 36th Ward Ald. William Banks.

Sal Romano, who worked under Anthony Spilotro, said he paid hired Sam Banks on the advice of Chicago police after Romano was arrested and believed they were bribed through money Romano paid his attorney. But Romano acknowledged he never saw Banks hand any money to police.

Romano said his case involving stolen property was thrown out.

Banks could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Romano said another lawyer he hired for another case, Dean Wolfson, was more direct about the bribery. Wolfson was later convicted of bribing judges as part of Operation Greylord. Romano said after he gave Wolfson $10,000, the attorney instructed an assistant that a certain portion of the money was for the judge in the case, while the remainder was for the police.

Romano described working out in Las Vegas with a variety of career criminals, including Spilotro, who was slain in 1986, and Paul "The Indian" Schiro, who is a defendant on trial in the Family Secrets case.

Romano said Schiro set up a burglary of a home owned by people Schiro knew. Schiro said the people were going to be at a wedding and gave Romano the key to their front door. Inside the home was a closet safe supposedly containing $50,000, Romano said.

Romano and another burglar went into the home, but a little dog came out yapping like crazy. The dog made it out to the backyard and continued barking. "Let's go, I'm gone," Romano recalled saying. When he got grief from Schiro for not disposing of the dog, Romano said "I don't do dogs."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Protected Witness, Sal Romano, Testifies at Mob Trial

Sal Romano has been in and out of the Witness Protection Program since the early 1980s, working for a time as an apartment manager. But Romano's real talent was as a lock picker. It was a talent he says he exploited for himself and the Chicago Outfit.

Romano, an admitted burglar, knew his way around the Outfit in Chicago and Las Vegas. His testimony in the mid-1980s helped jail the Hole in the Wall gang that reported to Vegas mob boss Tony Spilotro.

Romano testified that police payoffs helped grease the way for the mob. He said that often, those payments were channeled through attorneys.

Romano said his first exposure to the Outfit was breaking into some laundry machines for mob boss Joseph Ferriola. "He's not the kind of guy you say, 'No, I don't want to talk to you,'" Romano said.

Romano also recounted an alleged botched burglary attempt in Vegas with defendant Paul Schiro. They were looking for $50,000 kept in a closet safe, but when a small dog surprised them and started barking, Romano said he called the job off. When asked later why he didn't just take care of the dog, Romano responded, "I don't do dogs."

It is alleged that Schiro was a mob hit man who could often be volatile. Romano said he was told to be careful with Schiro because he could be a dangerous man.

Other testimony on Monday focused on the gambling machine business run by Mike Marcello, called M & M Amusements. A Cook County Sheriff's lieutenant testified about the raids that saw Marcello and Thomas Johnson arrested in 2003.

Still to take the stand is one of the prosecution's other big witnesses -- the brother of Anthony and Michael Spilotro. A dentist by trade, Pat Spilotro often worked on other mobsters. He also wore a wire for federal investigators, Charlie Wojciechowski reported.

Pat Spilotro is also thought to have helped the feds track down Joey "The Clown" Lombardo when he was on the run in 2005. Lombardo reportedly went to Pat Spilatro for secret dental work.

Pat Spilotro was also the dentist for Nick Calabrese, the mob hit man involved in Spilotro's brother's murder, Charlie Wojciechowski reported. Pat Spilotro is expected to take the stand on Tuesday.

Thanks to Charlie Wojciechowski

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mobster, Tony Spilotro, Fought Killers to Death

Friends of ours: Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese, James Marcello, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, Anthony Doyle
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Frank Calabrese Jr.

A mobster who inspired a movie character warned his attackers before they beat him to death that they would get in trouble, an organized crime insider testified Monday.

Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, and his brother, Michael, had been lured to a basement on the pretext that Michael would be initiated as a "made guy" into the mob, Frank Calabrese Jr. said.

"He came into the basement and there were a whole bunch of guys who grabbed him and strangled him and beat him to death," Calabrese said at Chicago's biggest mob trial in years. "Tony put up a fight. He kept saying, 'You guys are going to get in trouble, you guys are going to get in trouble,'" the prosecution witness said.

Five defendants, including Calabrese's father, reputed mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr., are charged with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 killings, gambling, loan sharking and extortion. The slayings of the Spilotro brothers - Michael was killed the same night - were among the murder charges.

Despite his graphic narrative, Calabrese was not a witness to the June 1986 death of Tony Spilotro, known as the Chicago Outfit's man in Las Vegas and inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in "Casino."

Calabrese testified that he heard what happened from his uncle, Nicholas Calabrese, who has pleaded guilty and also is expected to testify at the trial. The younger Calabrese testified he was told Tony Spilotro would be killed because he was engaging in unauthorized activities in Las Vegas.

Calabrese Sr., 69, is on trial along with James Marcello, 65; Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78; convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 70; and former police officer Anthony Doyle, 62.

Prosecutors on Monday began playing tapes made secretly by Calabrese Jr. in talks with his father when they both were imprisoned for loan sharking. Calabrese Jr. said he wrote to an FBI agent volunteering to make the tapes because he wanted to change his life and get away from his father, whom he described as manipulative and unwilling to give up crime. The father sat expressionless as his son, who now runs a carry-out near Phoenix, said he wanted to "expose my father for what he was."

Also Monday, convicted bookie Joel Glickman, who went to jail rather than testify against Calabrese Sr., told jurors he paid thousands in "street tax" to the mob and once got a "juice loan" from Calabrese.

Glickman, looking haggard after spending a week behind bars for contempt because of his earlier refusal to testify, said he paid as much as $400,000 in "street tax" over 25 years of working as a bookmaker.

If he hadn't paid the mob for permission to do business, he would have lived in a state of fear, he said.

"Fear of what?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk. "Fear of getting hurt," Glickman said.

Glickman said that he stopped working as a bookie for six years in the 1970s and went into the insurance business, but that while doing so he got a $20,000 loan for his boss from Calabrese.

"A juice loan?" Funk asked, using a mob term for usury.

"I'd say so," said Glickman, testifying under immunity from prosecution.

Calabrese attorney Joseph Lopez tried to soften the impact of that testimony, asking Glickman whether "Calabrese ever threatened you."

"Never," Glickman said. He agreed with Lopez that Calabrese had always been polite and diplomatic with him.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blood and Gore Highlight Opening Statements at Family Secrets Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, Nicholas Calabrese, Michael "Hambone" Albergo
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt

Chicago's biggest mob trial in years started Thursday with a prosecutor urging the jury to forget what they know about movie mobsters and see the now-elderly defendants for who they are: men who "committed brutal crimes on behalf of the Chicago Outfit."

"This is not The Sopranos. This is not The Godfather. These are real people, very corrupt and without honor," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully told the jury.

As Scully described a blood-drenched litany of murders, he showed the jury large photos of the victims. He talked about Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for Joe Pesci's character in the movie Casino. Spilotro and his brother were allegedly lured into a basement and beaten to death, then buried in an Indiana cornfield.

The men on trial — reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78, James Marcello, 65, Frank Calabrese Sr., 70, Paul Schiro, 69, and former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, 62 — are accused in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 murders. All have pleaded not guilty.

An anonymous jury is hearing the case, with the jurors being identified only by court-issued numbers to protect their identities.

"Four of the five defendants in this room committed brutal crimes on behalf of the Chicago Outfit," Scully told the jury in his opening statement. The fifth, Doyle, protected them, he said.

Scully described Calabrese as a violent loan shark who strangled witnesses with a rope and cut their throats to make sure they were dead.

Defense attorney Joseph Lopez painted a different picture for the jury, describing Calabrese as a much-maligned, deeply religious man "who believes in peace" and loved his family. He ripped into Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., who is expected to be a key witness for the government against his father.

"He's going to say, 'My father is a rotten S.O.B., my father never loved me' — none of this is true," Lopez said. He said the jurors would see letters between the father and son "expressing love for one another."

"You're going to hear that Frank did slap his son around on numerous occasions," Lopez said. But he said that was only because the youngster was robbing the neighbors of their jewelry and taking cocaine.

He said Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, also expected to be a key witness, once stole a rifle with a silencer from Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, where it had been used to shoot birds that congregated on the scoreboard.

Scully described Marcello as one of the top leaders of the Chicago Outfit. He said Lombardo was the boss of the mob's Grand Avenue crew. Schiro was jailed five years ago for taking part in a jewel theft ring led by the Chicago police department's one-time chief of detectives, William Hanhardt.

Doyle, the retired Chicago police officer, also worked as a loan shark under Calabrese, according to federal prosecutors. He is the one defendant in the case not directly accused of murdering anyone. But Scully said that he aided and abetted the others in their work.

Scully was graphic in describing the killings, but it was Lopez who offered the juiciest details.

He recounted how FBI agents, acting on an informant's tip, tore up concrete in a parking lot near U.S. Cellular Field, home of the White Sox, looking for the last remains of murdered loan shark Michael Albergo. He said they found "thousands of bones" under the parking lot. But DNA testing couldn't tie any of the bones to Albergo, Lopez said, repeatedly referring to the victim by his mob nickname of "Hambone."

4th of July Sale

Monday, June 18, 2007

Family Secrets Mob Trial Capsule

The judge

U.S. District Judge: James B. Zagel

A Reagan appointee, Zagel is generally considered a good draw for the prosecution and one of the brightest judges on Chicago's federal bench. He is also among the most experienced, marking his 20th year on the federal bench this month. Zagel, 66, was once married to TV investigative reporter Pam Zekman, wrote "Money To Burn," a fictional thriller about a plot to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, and played a judge in the 1989 movie "Music Box."

Who's on trial

Fourteen alleged mobsters and associates were indicted in the case in 2005, but only five are expected to go on trial. Two of the original defendants died, one is too ill to face trial, four have pleaded guilty and two more are set to plead guilty as soon as Monday.

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

A reputed capo in the Grand Avenue street crew, Lombardo has been alleged to be a mob leader who committed murder while controlling pornography and other Outfit business in the city. Known for his alleged penchant for violence and an odd sense of humor, he once took out a newspaper ad to publicly announce that he was officially retired from the mob. He is charged in connection with the murder of Daniel Seifert in September 1974. He was separately convicted of attempting to bribe a U.S. senator and conspiring to skim $2 million from the Stardust casino in Las Vegas along with mob bosses Joseph Aiuppa, John Cerone, and Angelo LaPietra.

James Marcello

Marcello, 65, was described by Chicago's top FBI agent as the boss of the Chicago Outfit when the Family Secrets indictment came down in the spring of 2005. The Lombard resident had previously been convicted in 1993 on federal charges of racketeering, gambling, loan-sharking and extortion. Authorities have alleged he passed on money to the family of mobster Nicholas Calabrese to try to buy his silence on gangland slayings. Federal agents recorded conversations he had with his brother, Michael, while James was in a federal prison in Michigan. The men allegedly discussed gambling operations and Calabrese's possible cooperation with law enforcement.

Frank Calabrese Sr.

The one-time street boss of the mob's South Side or 26th Street crew, the 70-year-old Calabrese once was alleged to be the city's top loan shark. He is charged in connection with the 1980 murder of hit man William Petrocelli in Cicero as well as a dozen other slayings. Calabrese pleaded guilty in 1997 to using threats, violence and intimidation to collect more than $2.6 million in juice loans. He was in prison when the Family Secrets indictment came down. His brother, Nicholas, is the key turncoat witness in the case, and Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., also is expected to testify against his father.

Paul "the Indian" Schiro

A 69-year-old mob enforcer who is charged in one of the gangland killings, Schiro was an alleged associate of murdered mobster Anthony Spilotro. At the time of his Family Secrets indictment, he was in prison for taking part in a jewelry-theft ring headed by William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives.

Anthony Doyle

Doyle, also known as "Twan," is a former Chicago police officer. He is charged in the conspiracy for allegedly passing messages from the imprisoned Frank Calabrese Sr. to other members of the Outfit. Calabrese was trying to find out if his brother was cooperating with authorities, and Doyle allegedly was keeping him up to date on a law enforcement investigation into the murder of mob hit man John Fecarotta, authorities alleged. The 62-year-old was arrested at his home in Arizona as federal prosecutors and the FBI were announcing the Family Secrets case.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Murder, Juice Loans, Pornography, Street Gambling, All Part of Mob Family Secrets Trial

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul "the Indian" Schiro, Anthony Doyle, Tony Spilotro, Frank "the German" Schweihs, Nick Calabrese, John Fecarotta, Rocco Infelice, William Hanhardt
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro

With the sweeping "Family Secrets" conspiracy trial just days from starting, reputed mobster Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was looking pretty relaxed. If not for the orange jumpsuit and the federal courtroom, he could have been passing time in a coffee shop or one of his favorite Grand Avenue restaurants.

As he sat in a wheelchair with his legs crossed, he gestured and chatted with court personnel and lawyers about the clothes he'll wear when a jury hears allegations that he and several co-defendants ruthlessly steered the Outfit through years of vice and violence. "Do I get a haircut too?" he said with a smile, drawing a laugh.

Even in a city as heavy with mob history and lore as Chicago, the landmark trial set to begin Tuesday with the selection of an anonymous jury promises to be a spectacle.

There will be veteran prosecutors who have made careers targeting wiseguys. There will be flamboyant defense lawyers unafraid to make a joke in court and wear pink socks while doing it. And there will be Lombardo and at least four other defendants, a group accused of forming the backbone of the Chicago Outfit for much of the 1970s and '80s. The trial will lay bare secret ceremonies, 18 long-unsolved gangland slayings and the mob's grip on the city's dark side -- street gambling, juice loans and pornography.

They are now shadows of the men who have stared coldly out of mug shots. They have limped into court using canes, the 78-year-old Lombardo leading a geriatric assortment of characters that has complained of bad backs, poor eyesight and heart trouble in the months leading up to the trial.

Federal prosecutors have targeted individual Outfit street crews and their leaders in the past, but Family Secrets will essentially put on trial the structure and enterprise that was the Chicago mob during the last few decades.

Expected to go on trial with Lombardo for racketeering conspiracy will be James Marcello, named as the boss of the Chicago mob at the time of his arrest; Frank Calabrese Sr., a made member of the Outfit's 26th Street crew and once Chicago's reputed top loan shark; Paul "the Indian" Schiro; and former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle.

The case started with a bang when the indictments came down in the spring of 2005. Lombardo and reputed hit man Frank "the German" Schweihs -- now too sick to go on trial -- were on the lam for months.

While a fugitive, Lombardo wrote letters to the judge in the case, signing some "an innocent man" and promising to swallow truth serum to prove he wasn't involved in the murders. He vowed to turn himself in if he would be released on bail and tried separately. He was arrested in suburban Elmwood Park in January 2006.

As the case finally goes to trial, interest is expected to cause it to be moved to the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, the building's largest.

Prosecutors will tell the jury that Lombardo, Marcello and others helped control the organization born with Al Capone, which has persisted and flourished in all manner of illicit business, and has protected itself through murder when necessary. The most sensational of the 18 killings are the 1986 beating deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, who were found buried in an Indiana cornfield and whose murders were featured in the movie "Casino."

"This ranks up there with the great cases ... based on the number of people and the high-profile crimes involved," said Lee Flosi, a former FBI agent who was the supervisor of Chicago's organized crime task force in the early 1990s.

It could even be the last great mob case, Flosi said, as the FBI devotes fewer resources to taking on a somewhat downtrodden Outfit. "It'll be many years before there's anything that rivals it," he said.

Observers are calling the case the most important involving the Chicago mob since Lombardo and three bosses were convicted in 1986 of skimming millions of dollars from a Las Vegas casino.

The trial, expected to last as long as four months, will feature high-ranking turncoats, including a made mob member, Nicholas Calabrese, who will testify against his brother, giving the case its Family Secrets code name. It will include undercover recordings of prison meetings between the incarcerated Marcello and his brother, Michael, and even a government expert dubbed a "mobologist" by the defense to try to tie it all together. A parade of prosecution witnesses that includes hit men, pornographers, bookies, career burglars, gamblers and other mob associates are expected to testify about their dealings with the Outfit.

As the government attacks the mob as a racketeering enterprise, the case will attempt to close the books on the Spilotro killings and a series of other hits that for years sat among the hundreds of unsolved mob slayings in Chicago. Prosecutors will use the rarest of tools to take jurors inside organized crime -- a member of the Outfit's inner circle.

Billed as the most significant witness against the Chicago syndicate in decades, Nick Calabrese has the insider's knowledge to name names. Associated with the Outfit since 1970, he has admitted taking part in 14 Outfit killings and has information on many more, prosecutors have said.

A made member of the 26th Street crew, he began cooperating in 2002 after being confronted by authorities with DNA evidence that linked him to the 1986 killing of mob hit man John Fecarotta. Calabrese recently pleaded guilty.

He also will supply firsthand information about mob business, the Outfit's structure and its customs. And he will explain the backdrop and motives for many of the slayings. He is expected to directly link James Marcello to the murders of the Spilotros, according to prosecutors' documents. The brothers were beaten and strangled in a home near Bensenville after running afoul of the Chicago Outfit while heading its Las Vegas operation.

Calabrese is expected to tell jurors about an underworld ceremony in 1983 when he was welcomed into the mob's leading ranks with Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. Calabrese will describe how each inductee was joined by his crew boss and how the highest-ranking Outfit leaders had them pledge absolute allegiance.

To fight Calabrese and his testimony, defense lawyers said they will attempt to show the motives for many of the murders were unrelated to the mob, or that their clients were not directing the conspiracy. According to the defense, the government's case is built on the idea that the Outfit was structured from the top down. "In past cases, the government has shown all of this thuggery, and then asked the jury to reasonably infer that it was done on behalf of the mob," said Rick Halprin, Lombardo's lawyer and a veteran of the federal courthouse. "This case is the reverse. They will be proving that there was organized crime."

Halprin, an ex-Marine who was wounded in Vietnam, has a booming courtroom voice and is quick with a quip. Halprin intends to portray Lombardo as a lifelong working man. "He doesn't have a home in River Forest," he said. "He doesn't drive fancy cars."

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, Joseph Lopez, who has defended other mob figures as well, is known for his sharp suits, occasionally accented with pink socks. He said he agrees the team of prosecutors on the case must show that the orders for the killings came down the mob's chain of command.

It doesn't matter, Lopez said, that his client has previously pleaded guilty to being in the Outfit. Prosecutors have to prove the slayings were mob hits. "The question is, were these killings sanctioned by the mob," Lopez said. "People get killed for a variety of reasons."

Lopez said he will present evidence to show that two individuals who have no connection to the mob killed Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski, one of the mob hits with which his client is charged. "We're not charged with murder. We're charged with conspiracy," Lopez said. "If we were charged with murder down at 26th Street [the Criminal Courts Building], this would be a different story."

"They can't show these [murders] were done to protect the Outfit," he said. But leading the prosecution team are two of the most seasoned, savvy assistant U.S. attorneys, Mitchell Mars, the office's organized crime chief, who headed the prosecution in the early 1990s of mobster Rocco Infelice, and John Scully, who prosecuted William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives convicted of running a mob-connected jewelry theft ring.

To be sure, they won't be in a joking mood, even though Lombardo might be. "You know he doesn't want to just sit there silently with his hands folded," Flosi said of Lombardo, who once famously covered his face with a newspaper -- a hole cut out for him to see -- as he left a 1981 court appearance. "Maybe he'll come to court in his pajamas," Flosi said. "Who knows?"

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Joey the Clown Denies He was a Fugitive to Avoid Mob Arrest

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

Reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo pleaded not guilty today to a charge that he went on the lam to avoid arrest.

In a brief hearing in federal court, Lombardo pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice. The charge was tacked onto a sweeping indictment of several defendants in a federal investigation of long-unsolved mob murders and other crimes.

Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs allegedly went on the run to avoid FBI agents after prosecutors unveiled the first version of the Operation Family Secrets racketeering indictment in April 2005.

Schweihs was captured in Kentucky in December 2005, and Lombardo was caught in Elmwood Park in January 2006. Schweihs was not in court Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said the government could not charge Lombardo with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution because it could not prove that he had crossed state lines -- a key provision of the law. He said the second choice was charging Lombardo with attempting to "impede and obstruct" efforts to arrest him. But Halprin said that at no time did Lombardo's absence from court impede and obstruct the case.

Reputed mobsters Lombardo, Schweihs, Frank Calabrese, James Marcello, and Paul Schiro and nine others are charged with conspiring to commit 18 murders going back three decades. The murders include the 1986 hit on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's man in Las Vegas.

The charges grow out of a decades-old federal investigation known as "Family Secrets." Jury selection is expected to start in May, and the trial is expected to last four or five months.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Accused Heads of Chicago Outfit Due in Federal Court

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro, Frank Schweihs, Tony "The Ant" Spilotro

Reputed leaders of Chicago's organized crime family have status hearings scheduled today in federal court. Frank Calabrese, Joseph Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro and Frank Schweihs (SHWYS) are charged with conspiring to commit 18 murders going back three decades.

They're among 14 reputed mob figures charged in a racketeering indictment stemming from the F-B-I's "Operation Family Secrets."

The murders include the June 1986 hit on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the mob's man in Las Vegas for two decades.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Joey's a load of laughs ... or buckshot

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "the German" Schweihs, Paul Schiro
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt, Chris Spina

It must be difficult to tell jokes while you're wearing leg irons and an orange federal jumpsuit, facing the possibility you could spend the rest of your life sharing prison space with some Colombian drug dealer, a blue tattoo covering half his face. But Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 77, couldn't help but be amusing in federal court Tuesday after spending nine months as a fugitive from the FBI until his arrest late last week.

He pleaded not-guilty to a charge of conspiring in the 1974 shotgun murder of government witness Daniel Seifert. Then U.S. District Judge James Zagel asked Lombardo if a doctor had examined him. "I didn't see my doctor since nine months ago," said Lombardo. "I was--what do they call it? I was unavailable."

That got laughs. Even Zagel smiled. The criminal defense lawyers representing other Outfit figures in the federal government's Operation Family Secrets prosecution laughed too. One of them slapped Lombardo hard on the back.

Though he's pushing 80, Lombardo's runty and bandy legged in his jumpsuit, suggesting he had an active youth. His pantlegs are short, the cuffs rolled up several times, and he leaned on one foot, then the other, the leg irons connecting his ankles. And though he was joking and polite and cast as a colorful rogue, you could see something in him still.

You could see it in his back and in the way he folded his fingers together and held the hands up to his face while the judge was speaking, how he rubbed his lips with his thumbs, listening, eyes moving quickly in his head. Here's what you could see: You could still see the ape in the man.

We asked Jack O'Rourke, a former FBI agent, what was so scary about the Clown. Jack was polite but sounded as if he thought it was a silly question. What was so scary about Lombardo? "Well, he had absolute power and he could get you killed, that's basically it," O'Rourke said.

I've heard that sometimes, if Lombardo's really in a clowning mood, he'll take a photograph of himself and cut his own head off, then stick his photograph head onto another picture, perhaps some gorgeous supermodel in a calendar or an athlete on a poster. That's funny, isn't it? Or he'll point to a fish on the wall, some bass that got caught and mounted, and he'll say, "Hey, he wouldn't get caught if he didn't open his mouth." That's funny too.

One of my favorite Lombardo jokes took place after he had served time in prison for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) and another conviction for plotting to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino. In 1992 he took an ad in the Tribune and other papers saying he wasn't a mobster anymore:"If anyone hears my name used in connection with criminal activity, please notify the FBI, local police, and my parole officer, Ron Kumke."

At that time, he was being driven around town on the taxpayer's dime by a $30 per hour city Streets and San foreman, Chris Spina. Chris, or Christy, had a trucking company, Spingee Trucking, and that firm received contracts in the mayor's Hired Truck program, and Spina's trucks may even have had engines. Former City Inspector General Alexander Vroustouris made all of this public in 1993 and tried to get Spina fired. But that's not the funny part.

The funny part is that after Vroustouris moved to fire him, and exposed the trucks and the Lombardo connection, the Illinois Appellate Court reinstated Spina and he got a raise, and Spina only recently retired with a full city pension. So Spina didn't get fired. It was Vroustouris who got fired later.

Then there was the time five years ago that I went looking for Lombardo at a nice little restaurant on Grand Avenue with my first legman, named Slim the Legman.

We were there to ask Lombardo about William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, who was just indicted and who would later plead guilty to running an Outfit-sanctioned jewelry theft ring.

One of Hanhardt's partners in the ring, Paul Schiro, has been indicted in the Operation Family Secrets case that has also indicted Lombardo, reputed hit man Frank "The German" Schweihs and others.

Lombardo was in the restaurant, and he had a gold St. Christopher medallion around his neck.

Sitting with Slim, I took out my notebook and tape recorder, to let Lombardo know I was coming over. He snapped his fingers and bus boys ran over to shovel his food into takeout containers. Then he left.

I asked the manger why Lombardo left so quickly. The manager said it wasn't Lombardo.

"No. That was Mr. Irwin Goldman. I think it was, yeah, Mr. Goldman," he said.

Irwin Goldman wearing a St. Christopher medallion? Are you kidding?

"You're funny," the manager said. "That's funny."

But I'm not the funny one. I keep hearing how Lombardo is funny. I'm sure he's a riot.

I'm just wondering how funny he'd be with a shotgun in his hands.

Thanks to John Kass

Saturday, January 14, 2006

FBI captures Lombardo

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Paul Schiro

Fugitive mobster discovered in Elmwood Park
Lombardo Caught
After an international manhunt, FBI agents captured reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo Friday night in Elmwood Park, not far from where he disappeared nine months ago, officials said. Lombardo had changed his appearance, growing a beard, after becoming a fugitive in April, when federal prosecutors charged him and more than a dozen other defendants in 18 Outfit-related murders dating to 1970.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice said Lombardo was arrested without incident. Rice said Lombardo was arrested about 8:30 p.m. outside a home on 74th Avenue. A law enforcement source said Lombardo cooperated with arresting officers. "He was very compliant and just put his hands up," the source said. Authorities said they were planning to release a more complete account of Lombardo's apprehension at a news conference Saturday.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said the U.S. attorney's office notified him of the arrest Friday night. He said Lombardo was arrested with a friend. Halprin talked to Lombardo as he was being transported to a police lockup by FBI agents. "His spirits were good," Halprin said. "He said he had been treated very well by the FBI."

Prosecutors charged Lombardo and Frank "The German" Schweihs with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case. Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix. Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before being captured last month in a small town in Kentucky. FBI officials said Lombardo and Schweihs had apparently disappeared a "significant time" before the indictments in order to avoid capture.

The search for Lombardo included a number of federal agencies, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Leads had raised suspicions that Lombardo could be in the Caribbean or in Mexico. Ultimately, he was "right under our noses," the law enforcement source said.

Lombardo, a longtime resident of Chicago's West Town neighborhood, has two federal convictions in the 1980s--for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada for help in defeating a trucking deregulation bill and for scheming to skim $2 million from a Las Vegas casino.

While Lombardo has been missing, he was apparently not silent. Two attorneys reported getting letters from Lombardo, which they turned over to federal authorities. In May, Halprin delivered a four-page letter to a federal judge purportedly written by Lombardo. The letter said Lombardo would surrender if he would be released on his own recognizance and prosecuted in a separate trial after the fate of his co-defendants had been decided. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel promptly rejected the offer. Halprin said he also got a letter in August that indicated Lombardo offered to take truth serum or a lie detector test if the FBI supervisor and its informant did too.

Thanks to Todd Lighty Matt O'Connor, and Michael Higgins

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wintry grave may be part of mob's legacy

Friends of ours: Frank "the German" Schweihs, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, William Hanhardt, Paul Schiro, Richard Cain, Sam "Momo" Gianacana

In a few days, U.S. marshals will drive the fugitive Chicago Outfit enforcer Frank "The German" Schweihs from Kentucky back to Chicago. Here, he will stand trial for two gangland murders that are part of the FBI's Family Secrets investigation of unsolved mob killings. But once in the Chicago area, on the way to the federal lockup, the marshals might think about taking a short detour to Elmwood Cemetery in suburban River Grove.

They should drive about a half-mile past the cemetery office and start looking for a giant Norwegian pine that throws shade on the gravestones in the afternoon. From the road, with that tree as a marker, it is only a few paces to Section 47-Lot 15-Grave 2.

After that long drive up from Kentucky, it might be good for Schweihs to stretch his legs a bit, to take a short walk on the snow and stand at the grave I have in mind, one of those graves in the shadow of the big pine tree. That's where Eugenia Pappas, also known as "Becca," is buried. She's been there a long time now. She wasn't a tough guy. She wasn't a jewel thief or an iceman, wasn't a burglar or extortionist. She wasn't a puppet master, giving politicians orders. She was young and beautiful, with big brown eyes, only 18 years old when she dated Schweihs, a bodyguard for mobster Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio.

Her father, Christopher, and her mother, Helen, didn't like it that one of Chicago's most fearsome and untouchable hoodlums had taken a fancy to their daughter. Christopher moved the family to Arizona, to start a new life, to give his daughter a chance away from Schweihs. Eventually, though, she returned to Chicago. A few weeks later, she stopped dating Schweihs. She stopped dating him about the time a bullet pierced her heart.

I spoke to Pappas family members, but they were too afraid to be quoted in this column and declined to be interviewed. I also spoke to a family friend who told me about Pappas on the condition her name was not used. I understand. Every so often, some writer announces that the Outfit is dead. But if it's so dead, why are people in Chicago still afraid?

"The whole family, they were so close, so loving," the family friend told me Tuesday. "When Becca was found, it was so horrible, devastating. It was like somebody scooped their insides out and left the shells. Her mother, Helen, was a strong woman, she was American, but she wore black from that day on. She died later, but she really died the day Becca was found."

Becca was last seen a week or so before Christmas of 1962. Her distraught father went to the newspapers for help in mid-January. An article in the Tribune, under the headline "Girl Sought" ran in the Jan. 12, 1963, editions. "Left behind in the apartment, Pappas said, were all her clothes, except those she was wearing," the story said.

On Feb. 9, a tugboat captain found her body floating in the Chicago River. She'd been in the water about two weeks. Authorities surmised she was killed while sitting in the passenger's seat of an automobile. She was buried on Feb. 15, 1963. "You've seen those wakes where people get emotional and loud," the family friend told me. "This wasn't like that. It was silent, completely silent. That was worse."

Schweihs was hauled in for questioning by a celebrated crime fighter, Richard Cain, the homicide chief of the Cook County sheriff's police. After much questioning and investigating--or simply the appearance of questioning and investigating--the case against Schweihs, if there ever was one, fizzled. He was let go and no charges regarding the Pappas murder were ever filed against him. Schweihs, the papers noted, had a long police record, but no convictions. That's not hard to figure, since he was usually being investigated by one of those celebrated crime fighters.

It's a Chicago thing. The relationship between mobsters and top local cops isn't new, and it isn't old. William Hanhardt, the former chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department, was recently convicted of running the Outfit's interstate jewelry theft ring, using police information to set up the victims. One of Hanhardt's convicted accomplices in the jewel ring is Paul Schiro, an Outfit enforcer. Schiro and Schweihs have been charged by the feds with an Outfit killing in Arizona.

When the victim is another mobster, Chicago shrugs. But this victim was a girl, a civilian, whose family had no power. So the local law spit on her and the Outfit spit on her and the investigation was dropped.

I said that Richard Cain, the detective who cleared Schweihs of the Pappas killing, was a celebrated crime fighter. He was celebrated, sure, the way Hanhardt was celebrated, in gushing media accounts as some heroic tough guy, ready-made for Hollywood. Cain was a bodyguard for Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. On Dec. 20, 1973, Cain was in Rose's Sandwich Shop on the West Side when two men entered with shotguns. He took two blasts to the face. The second one was just to make sure.

Schweihs is an old man, now, at 75, and Cain is dead. And Eugenia Pappas' grave was silent in the shadow of that pine tree in the snow. "Elusive in life," reads the inscription on her gravestone. "Elusive in death."

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mob Fugitive Arrested in Kentucky

Friends of ours: Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul Schiro

A 75-year-old man reputed to be a longtime mob enforcer was arrested Friday at an apartment complex in a small Kentucky town, eight months after being charged with two murders in a federal indictment in Chicago.

Frank "The German" Schweihs had eluded authorities since April when he and 13 other defendants, including reputed mobster Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, were indicted in connection with 18 long-unsolved Outfit-related murders, loan sharking and illegal gambling. But local police said Friday that Schweihs apparently had been staying in the Blakewood Apartments in 12,000-resident Berea, Ky., for only two or three days. "I would say this is probably the biggest fish we ever got in our little pond," Berea police Lt. Ken Clark said of the capture.

A special agent from the FBI's Louisville office found Schweihs at the apartment complex and, at about noon Friday, the FBI called local police for backup, Clark said. "With his past history, they were sort of figuring it could get ugly," Clark said. But backup wasn't needed.

"We probably had people down there within 10 minutes, and by the time we got there [the agent] had already taken Mr. Schweihs into custody," Clark said. "Evidently [Schweihs] exited the apartment as if he was going to leave... So the FBI agent really had no choice. He had to [make the arrest]."

After the indictments in April, Schweihs and Lombardo became fugitives. FBI officials said both had disappeared before the indictments. Lombardo is still at large.

Federal prosecutors charged the two with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case. Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix.

"I'm sure the agents are pleased," FBI spokesman Ross Rice said. "They're going to be able to devote more resources now to finding Mr. Lombardo."

Schweihs appeared Friday before a federal judge in Lexington, Ky., FBI officials said. He is being held in Lexington until he can be brought back to Chicago to face charges, officials said.

According to Clark, an apartment manager at the complex said Schweihs and a woman had been staying there for two or three days and were in the process of trying to lease an apartment.

Thanks to Michael Higgins and Matt O'Connor

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Infrastructure of Chicago mob

The 14 defendants indicted on racketeering, conspiracy, or gambling charges are part of the Chicago Outfit, which makes money for members and associates through illegal activities. The chain of command:

BOSS

James Marcello

Leader of the Chicago Outfit, known as "No. 1"

CONSIGLIERE

Provides advice to the Boss

SOTTO CAPO: Second in command, also known as "No. 2," reports to Boss

CAPO Street boss/crew leader, reports to sotto capo

- Frank Calabrese Sr., South Side/26th Street Crew capo, continued criminal activities from jail through Nicholas Ferriola and others.

- Joseph Lombardo, Grand Avenue Crew capo

FOUR CREWS: Generally given territories throughout Chicago. May include "made men" --trustworthy people--usually of Italian descent, who have murdered for the Outfit.

1. South Side/26th Street or Chinatown

- Ferriola collected money made by extortion demands from Frank Calabrese.

- Frank Saladino

- Nicholas W. Calabrese, a "made man" and brother of Frank Calabrese Sr.

2. Grand Avenue

3. Melrose Park

- Michael Marcello kept his jailed brother James informed on activities. Michael operated an illegal video gambling business.

4. Elmwood Park

ASSOCIATES: Assist the Chicago Outfit through criminal enterprise

Employees of M&M Amusement:

Joseph Venezia, Dennis Johnson and Thomas Johnson operated video gambling machines in Cicero, Berwyn.

Retired cops:

- Michael Ricci, a retired Chicago police officer, assisted Frank Calabrese by delivering messages to crew members, collecting money generated by extortion demands and providing false information to FBI.

- Anthony Doyle, a retired Chicago police officer, who tipped off Frank Calabrese Sr. of law enforcement investigations into the murder of John Fecarotta and whether individuals cooperated with police about mob activities.

- Frank Schweihs, an enforcer, collected and imposed "street tax" for himself and other members.

- Paul Schiro, a criminal associate of Schweihs and deceased member Anthony Spilotro.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Chicago Tribune

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