The Chicago Syndicate: Raymond Tominello
Showing posts with label Raymond Tominello. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raymond Tominello. Show all posts

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rudy "The Chin" Fratto's Dining Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did the FBI get you early?

"Not too early," Rudy smirked.

Like 6 a.m.?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Fratto.

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

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

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

Rudy, always the jokester, couldn't resist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John Kass

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fedzhemier's

Fedzheimer's -- the terrible malady that saps the memories of politicians when the feds begin snooping around -- claimed another victim on Thursday:

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

I think he needs a nice Marco Island vacation -- Tommy D. style.

"I've never heard of that," the mayor said when asked by reporters about a front page Tribune exclusive that the FBI was investigating allegations that city inspectors were used to pressure property owners in Daley's 11th Ward to sell their land to politically connected developers.

Reporters: Are you aware of the investigation?

"No," Daley said.

It's not the first time he's been pixilated by Fedzheimer's. He usually recovers, until some underling gets indicted, then it flares up again. But this case seems especially severe.

The Daley family runs the 11th Ward. If inspectors were used to muscle local property for his friends, you could bet the inspectors pensions' the Daleys would know.

One of the developers reportedly involved is his loyal political supporter, and second favorite developer, Thomas DiPiazza. Tommy D., as he's known on Rush Street, is no chumbolone -- Bridgeport slang for idiot or fool.

No chumbolone could buy a polluted lot for $50,000 and sell it to Daley's administration a few years later for $1.2 million.

Tommy D. is a friend and business associate of Daley's top political brain, Tim Degnan. And, as I reported a few weeks ago, Tommy D. was also in business with a top convicted Outfit bookie from the 11th Ward, Raymond John Tominello, known as Rayjo.

Tommy D. is also close to Fred Bruno Barbara, the renowned trucking boss and mayoral fashionista. They own the pricey real estate under the famous Tavern on Rush, in the city's Viagra Triangle. But the mayor wasn't asked about Tavern on Rush. He was asked about Thursday's Tribune story by reporters Laurie Cohen and Todd Lighty.

"I've never heard of that at all," said the mayor.

Fedzheimer's is heartbreaking. If the FBI keeps asking questions about DiPiazza, Degnan, and the alleged use of city inspectors to threaten property owners on deals backed by Tommy D. and Degnan, the Fedzheimer's might increase.

Daley might forget he's the mayor. And Tim Degnan might forget how to count.

So, as an amateur psychiatrist, I'd like to write a prescription. Let the FBI do its work, establishing what could someday turn into a racketeering case against somebody, and I'll prescribe a remedy for Daley and Degnan.

Degnan should go on a golf vacation, say to Ireland, and take the mayor's brother Michael and the mayor's former law partner and zoning lawyer Jack George along, to relax while smashing a little white ball.

I'll send the mayor to take the Tommy D. cure, in Florida, at Tommy D.'s gorgeous penthouses on Marco Island.

According to Florida real estate records, DiPiazza spent $5 million to purchase Penthouse 201 at the lush Madeira on Marco Island development on Sept. 18, 2006. That same day, Fred Bruno Barbara purchased Penthouse 202 at Madeira, for $5.5 million. Barbara didn't take any loans to buy the property, at least none leveraged against the penthouse. The penthouses were estimated between 7,000 and 9,000 square feet.

Also on Sept. 18, 2006, another DiPiazza/Barbara buddy and 11th Warder, city worker Charles Scalfaro, purchased Unit 1504 at Madeira, for $1.9 million. Scalfaro makes around $60,000 a year overseeing paving for the city's Department of Transportation. Collier County real estate records show that no loans were taken out to purchase Scalfaro's condo. Living on about $60,000 a year, no loan, Scalfaro must be a good saver.

One month later, the records show that Barbara and Scalfaro sold their Marco properties to a Tommy D. company. The records don't show how much was paid. A few days later, Tommy D. leveraged them, and another home he owned, for a $6.6 million loan from Cole Taylor Bank, records show.

It sure seems to be prudent investing. But, if the FBI wants to poke around in Florida, hey, it's a free country. I hope they take some sunscreen.

Marco Island is a nice place. My parents bought a retirement home there years ago, back when I covered City Hall and the mayor liked me. In those days, he was under stress, too, telling us how he was reforming the city, and I became worried for him. So I offered him the use of my folks' place, with a boat and pool, so he could rest.

Take the boat out, fish, catch some snook, drink beer, relax, I said. I wasn't taking. I was giving, to a reformer. He thought about it for a few days then politely declined. A few years later, my dad died and it was sold.

Today, any amateur shrink can see the Fedzheimer's gripping the mayor. He can't remember. He doesn't know.

Some quality time with Tommy D., and Freddie B., on Marco Island, reflecting on life's many mysteries might be just the thing.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Connectiing the Dots with Chicago Clout

In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley met with close advisers at City Hall to discuss a favorite project, a plan to build dozens upon dozens of expensive single-family homes along the Chicago River in his ancestral 11th Ward, in what is now the troubled Bridgeport Village development.

Also at the meeting were mayoral strategist Tim Degnan, considered the fifth Daley brother, and Degnan business associate and 11th Ward developer Thomas DiPiazza, according to court documents and Tribune reports. But before and after that meeting with the mayor, according to public records in Illinois and Florida, DiPiazza was also engaged in a series of other, separate real estate transactions with a Bridgeport fixture known as Rayjo.

That's what he's called in Bridgeport, in Chinatown, on Rush Street and at the federal building, by prosecutors and the FBI. He's well known in these circles.

His formal name is Raymond John Tominello.

Tominello, 67, is considered a mathematical genius. He was convicted in 1989 of running the Chicago Outfit's illegal sports book operation under the supervision of the legendary Donald "The Wizard of Odds" Angelini and Dominic Cortina.

In 1989, Angelini, Cortina and Tominello all pleaded guilty, a week after their indictment on federal racketeering charges. Tominello served less than a year in federal prison. Angelini and Cortina have since died. But Rayjo still thrives, at least in real estate.

What does this tell us? That DiPiazza, who gets into meetings with the mayor about one of the most important developments in Bridgeport in years, has a mobbed-up business associate.

Of course the mayor will say he didn't know about it. And that may be true. He might not have ever heard the name Rayjo in his entire life, even though they're about the same age and grew up in the same neighborhood. Can't coincidences happen in Chicago?

DiPiazza's attorney Mark Kralovec said last week that Tominello had worked for DiPiazza years ago, but that Tominello no longer works with DiPiazza's business.

Conrad Duncker, real estate attorney in Tominello's deals with DiPiazza and DiPiazza's partner, Richard Ferro, declined to comment.

"I really can't answer any questions. Have a good day sir," said Duncker, before hanging up the phone. Tominello did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him, through his attorneys and at his homes. That's too bad. It would have been nice to hear how he transformed his life, from Outfit bookie to Mr. Real Estate with Tommy D.

Investing in real estate with guys who know Mayor Daley isn't a crime, not even for a bookie. Understanding Chicago doesn't come by reading official press releases, but by reading the tracks of exotic creatures in public records.

"Rayjo was an integral part of the Cortina/Angelini combine," Chicago Crime Commission President James Wagner, the former longtime FBI supervisor, told me last week. "He hasn't been convicted of anything lately, but back then, Rayjo was considered to be one of them, not a lowly worker, but a manager, with talent and some ambition to move up. You're talking about a lot of money."

Just weeks before Tominello was indicted, he, Ferro and DiPiazza were listed on a commercial loan filing statement with the Illinois secretary of state's office for a continuation of an undetermined business loan. And a couple of years after Tominello's prison stint, in 1992, records show that a trust all three were involved in sold a large tract of commercial/industrial property at 300 W. 83rd Street, to the Chicago Board of Education for nearly $900,000. A portion of that property now serves as open space across the street from Simeon Career Academy.

In 1998 -- a year before DiPiazza met with Daley about Bridgeport Village -- DiPiazza's company sold a house to Tominello at 2806 S. Shields Ave., down the street from the neighborhood social center, the Italian American Club.

Next door to Tominello, DiPiazza deeded a lot to the family of Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, county records show. LaMantia was assuming control of the Chicago Outfit's Chinatown Crew that runs Bridgeport. And for the next five years, according to tax records, tax bills for the Tominello house on Shields were addressed to Ferro-DiPiazza, but with a catch. They were mailed to Tominello's home. But Rayjo's home isn't officially the Ferro-DiPiazza offices. That office is at 3611 S. Normal Ave. Perhaps Tominello forgot to put his name on his taxes.

A similar thing happened on a Tominello investment property on Archer Avenue purchased in 1997. On the deed, the mailing address was listed at Ferro-DiPiazza. City building inspectors in 2000 found several code violations. The violation notices were sent to Ferro-DiPiazza on Normal, not to Tominello's home on Shields.

In 2003, DiPiazza sold a home on Marco Island, Fla., to Tominello for $300,000, not counting sunscreen.

Rayjo isn't the only smart guy DiPiazza knows. DiPiazza and another friend of Degnan's, the mayoral fashionista/waste-hauling king Fred Bruno Barbara, are also investors in the pricey real estate that houses the famous Tavern on Rush restaurant in the city's historic Viagra Triangle at Bellevue and Rush.

Degnan is close to both men.

Decades ago, in a Tribune story, Degnan publicly admitted to a serious gambling problem, saying in 1969 he owed $82,000 in gambling debts. In today's dollars, that comes to $459,000, a huge chunk for a young man back then. I haven't heard about Degnan gambling a dime lately, unless you count his wife getting magically clouted in as an investor in that Rosemont casino deal.

There's nothing illegal in all this real estate investing, as far as I can tell. These are puzzle pieces, coming together, revealing a little known feature of City Hall's infrastructure.

I asked Jim Wagner if he was surprised that DiPiazza, with his City Hall clout, meeting with the mayor and so on, would be involved in deals with Rayjo.

"No," Wagner said.

Of course not. This is Chicago.

Thanks to John Kass

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