The Chicago Syndicate: Rod Blagojevich
Showing posts with label Rod Blagojevich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rod Blagojevich. Show all posts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The FBI Confirms Rod Blagojevich Mafia Story

The FBI in Chicago was given information more than 20 years ago alleging that Rod Blagojevich had connections to an organized crime gambling ring.

That disclosure came on Thursday from a former top official of the FBI.

Outfit lawyer turned federal informant Robert Cooley told the I-Team that Rod Blagojevich booked illegal bets in the 1980's and paid protection money to the mob.

Cooley claimed he told FBI officials that Blagojevich used to be a mobbed-up bookie. On Thursday evening, the FBI agent who supervised Cooley's undercover work in the late 1980's confirms that federal officials were informed back then about Blagojevich's alleged bookmaking and mob payoffs.

In 1986, criminal defense lawyer Bob Cooley walked into the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago and offered to wear a wire in conversations with the hoodlums, corrupt city hall officials and crooked judges that he knew.

As part of Cooley's cooperation and to steer clear of criminal charges himself, he had to disclose all of the misconduct he knew about.

Some of what he reported to prosecutors and FBI involved Rod Blagojevich who was fresh from law school and working as an assistant cook county prosecutor.

"I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs. He was paying street tax to the Mob out there," said Robert Cooley, federal Informant.

On Thursday, former FBI official Jim Wagner confirms that telling the I-Team that Cooley indeed informed the bureau about Blagojevich's alleged bookmaking business. But Mr. Wagner says in the 1980's, FBI agents had never heard of Blagojevich.

Wagner was Cooley's 'handler' for the FBI at the time, supervising his undercover that resulted in two dozen successful prosecutions for public corruption.

That wasn't the end of it.

When Blagojevich ran for governor, Cooley says he returned to the FBI hoping agents would pursue the allegations of outfit bookmaking. Wagner confirms that as well but says the statute of limitations had long passed for prosecuting Blagojevich on illegal gambling charges.

However, last week when federal prosecutors announced they had filed corruption charges against the governor, Al Patton, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service, was on the podium.

As the feds examine Mr. Blagojevich's finances, one thing they will look for is unreported gambling income.

The governor's former chief of staff Chris Kelly will plead guilty next month to tax fraud for not declaring more than $1 million in winning sports wagers.

A few years ago when Robert Cooley reminded the FBI of his Blagojevich bookie information, Cooley also provided it to the ABC7 I-Team.

In attempting to verify the bookmaking allegations at the time I asked Governor Blagojevich whether he had ever been involved in taking betting action or paying a street tax to the mob. The governor denied it and said he didn't know Mr. Cooley.

This week, a spokesman for the governor declined to comment.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top Ten Messages Left On Rod Blagojevich's Answering Machine

10 "For 10 grand can you make me Pope?"

9. "Hello, is this the Blog-o-bloga-a-da-go-bl-vipivh residence?"

8. "Hi, it's O.J. Wanna be cellmates?"

7. "Oh, I'm sorry, I think I have the wrong Blagojevich"

6. "Hi, it's Larry Craig -- did I hear something about a Senator's seat being available?"

5. "I'm calling about your Senate seat on Craigslist. Want to trade for a futon?"

4. "Hey, it's Cheney -- Damn even I think you're sleazy"

3. "You really Blagojevich'd your political career"

2. "I'm guessing you didn't spend the bribe money on that haircut"

1. "It's Sarah Palin. Thanks for replacing me as the country's most embarassing governor"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Did Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Run a Gambling Operation that Paid Street Tax to the Chicago Mob?

Thanks to NewsAlert, we received a tip about the Justice Department's star witness in the Operation Gambat federal trials, Robert Cooley, makes a stunning accusation against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Cooley claims Rod Blagojevich ran a gambling operation for The Chicago Mob and paid the Mob a street tax. You can find charge at the 13 minute and 45 second marker in the video.


Illinois is Run by the Combine, with the Democratic Machine on 1 side, the Republican Insiders on the Other, and the Chicago Outfit Forming the Base

Now that Gov. Dead Meat has been arrested at his home and charged with selling Illinois by the pound—and Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat by the slice—let's just savor the aroma.

I love the smell of meat over coals in the morning.

It smells like . . . victory.

The people of Illinois needed some good news and they got it. Former Republican Gov. George Ryan is in prison, and the arrest of his successor, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, surely means that the Illinois Combine that runs this state can stop with the rumors that U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald will be leaving town. And, as Blagojevich most likely prepares to be Ryan's bunkmate, let's not forget the scores of other politicos, of all parties, who've gone down on corruption charges—including some of Mayor Richard Daley's guys who helped rebuild that Democratic machine the mayor says doesn't exist.

At a news conference in the federal building in Chicago, authorities were asked about Illinois corruption.

"If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor," said Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.

Grant had the privilege of standing outside Blagojevich's home about 6 a.m. Tuesday and calling the sleepy governor to say federal agents were outside, waiting to arrest him quietly.

"I could tell I woke him up," Grant said. "And the first thing he said was, 'Is this a joke?' "

No, but standing before a federal judge wearing jogging pants, sneakers and a powder blue fleece sort of made the governor of Illinois look like a jester. Or a joker.

Political corruption in the state that has made corruption an art form isn't funny, like a clown. The joke is on all of us, everyone who lives in Illinois. Because Blagojevich was elected governor on the reform ticket, promising to clean up the state and end business as usual.

Chicagoans aren't really surprised. This is the state run by the Combine, with the Democratic machine on one side and the Republican insiders on the other, and the Chicago Outfit forming the base. That is the real iron triangle.

Blagojevich was supported by the machine and by the now-indicted Republican power broker Big Bill Cellini. If that's not reform, what is?

The governor is alleged to have tried to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, used his leverage in attempts to oust Tribune editorial writers who didn't play ball, and schemed to shake down the chief executive officer of Children's Memorial Hospital for campaign cash in exchange for a state grant.

So though Illinois isn't surprised—this is after all the home of the Chicago Way—the national media must be shocked.

They've been clinging to the ridiculous notion that Chicago is Camelot for months now, cleaving to the idea with the willfulness of stubborn children. It must help them see Obama as some pristine creature, perhaps a gentle faun of a magic forest, unstained by our grubby politics, a bedtime story for grown-ups who insist upon fairy tales. But now the national media may finally be forced to confront reality.

Even national pundits with tingles running up their legs can't ignore the tape recordings in which Blagojevich speculated how he'd get the gold for picking Obama's successor.

"I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain," Blagojevich allegedly said on tape. "You hear what I'm saying? And if I don't get what I want, and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

Obama's Senate seat, Blagojevich allegedly said, "is a [expletive] valuable thing. You don't just give it away for nothing."

Then, on Nov. 5, he allegedly said, "I've got this thing, and it's [expletive] golden and, uh, I'm just not going to give it up for [expletive] nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And I can always use it, I can parachute me there."

If a jury hears that tape, it's [expletive] over.

I figure Blagojevich most likely will start talking to the feds, blabbing about everyone he knows, in order to cut down his time, because what's on the federal tapes is devastating.

Once he starts, the feds will have to slap him to shut him up.

Naturally, Obama didn't have much to say.

Obama said he never talked to Blagojevich about the Senate seat. In this, his hands are clean. But he also didn't want to get involved, much like last week, when he didn't want to get involved in the Democratic push led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Big Jim) to get Ryan out of prison.

"I had no contact with the governor or his office and so I was not aware of what was happening," Obama told reporters at his transition office in Chicago. "It's a sad day for Illinois; beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment."

I don't think Obama would ever countenance paying Blagojevich for a Senate seat or allow others close to him to even consider it. I'm not saying Obama is corrupt here. He's busy with all the great issues of the day, but at some point the president-elect must address the stench in his home state.

Because this is no fairy tale. This isn't Camelot.

This is Chicago.

And a governor is on the grill.
Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, December 11, 2008

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Last night at an intimate gathering to celebrate author Rose Keefe's visit to Chicago ( Rose is the author of the definitive biographies of Chicago beer war chieftains Dean O'Banion and George 'Bugs' Moran and recently The Starker: Big Jack Zelig and brilliant conversationalist), a fellow blogger, Pat Hickey, had the pleasure of discussing the current political scandal concerning Illinois Governor Blagojevich with Richard Lindberg a veteran Chicago crime/political journalist/historian/author and host of the History Channel's 'Underground Chicago.'

Mr. Lindberg is coming out with a biography on the life of Michael Cassius 'Big Mike' McDonald the author of Chicago and Illinois political corruption. Recently Richard Lindberg authored the chilling study of the 1955 murders of two Chicago boys-The Schuessler-Peterson Murders by the monster Kenneth Hansen.

You can read the rest of Pat's account of his evening along with a capsule on Big Mike McDonald at:

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute: Michael C. McDonald and Illinois Corruption

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

FULL CHARGES AGAINST ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN HARRIS ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CORRUPTION AT A STAGGERING LEVEL

Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges alleging that they and others are engaging in ongoing criminal activity: conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits for Blagojevich by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a United States Senator; threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members sharply critical of Blagojevich; and to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions – both historically and now in a push before a new state ethics law takes effect January 1, 2009.

Blagojevich, 51, and Harris, 46, both of Chicago, were each charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. They were charged in a two-count criminal complaint that was sworn out on Sunday and unsealed today following their arrests, which occurred without incident, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both men were expected to appear later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

A 76-page FBI affidavit alleges that Blagojevich was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps during the last month conspiring to sell or trade Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife. At various times, in exchange for the Senate appointment, Blagojevich discussed obtaining:

  • A substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions;
  • Placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year;
  • Promises of campaign funds – including cash up front; and
  • A cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.

Just last week, on December 4, Blagojevich allegedly told an advisor that he might “get some (money) up front, maybe” from Senate Candidate 5, if he named Senate Candidate 5 to the Senate seat, to insure that Senate Candidate 5 kept a promise about raising money for Blagojevich if he ran for re-election. In a recorded conversation on October 31, Blagojevich described an earlier approach by an associate of Senate Candidate 5 as follows: “We were approached ‘pay to play.’ That, you know, he’d raise 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him (Senate Candidate 5) a Senator.”

On November 7, Blagojevich said he needed to consider his family and that he is “financially” hurting while talking on the phone about the Senate seat with Harris and an advisor, the affidavit states. Harris allegedly said that they were considering what would help the “financial security” of the Blagojevich family and what will keep Blagojevich “politically viable.” Blagojevich stated, “I want to make money,” adding later that he is interested in making $250,000 to $300,000 a year, the complaint alleges.

On November 10, in a lengthy telephone call with numerous advisors that included discussion about Blagojevich obtaining a lucrative job with a union-affiliated organization in exchange for appointing a particular Senate Candidate whom he believed was favored by the President-elect and which is described in more detail below, Blagojevich and others discussed various ways Blagojevich could “monetize” the relationships he has made as governor to make money after leaving that office.

“The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “They allege that Blagojevich put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism. The citizens of Illinois deserve public officials who act solely in the public’s interest, without putting a price tag on government appointments, contracts and decisions,” he added.

Mr. Grant said: “Many, including myself, thought that the recent conviction of former governor would usher in a new era of honesty and reform in Illinois politics. Clearly, the charges announced today reveal that the office of the Governor has become nothing more than a vehicle for self-enrichment, unrestricted by party affiliation and taking Illinois politics to a new low.”

Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Grant thanked the Chicago offices of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General for assisting in the ongoing investigation. The probe is part of Operation Board Games, a five-year-old public corruption investigation of pay-to-play schemes, including insider-dealing, influence-peddling and kickbacks involving private interests and public duties.

Federal agents today also executed search warrants at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich located at 4147 North Ravenswood, Suite 300, and at the Thompson Center office of Deputy Governor A.

Pay-to-Play Schemes

The charges include historical allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with others – including previously convicted defendants Antoin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others – since becoming governor in 2002 to obtain and attempt to obtain financial benefits for himself, his family and third parties, including his campaign committee, Friends of Blagojevich, in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. A portion of the affidavit recounts the testimony of various witnesses at Rezko’s trial earlier this year.

The charges focus, however, on events since October when the Government obtained information that Blagojevich and Fundraiser A, who is chairman of Friends of Blagojevich, were accelerating Blagojevich’s allegedly corrupt fund-raising activities to accumulate as much money as possible this year before a new state ethics law would severely curtail Blagojevich’s ability to raise money from individuals and entities that have existing contracts worth more than $50,000 with the State of Illinois. Agents learned that Blagojevich was seeking approximately $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, principally from or through individuals or entities – many of which have received state contacts or appointments – identified on a list maintained by Friends of Blagojevich, which the FBI has obtained.

The affidavit details multiple incidents involving efforts by Blagojevich to obtain campaign contributions in connection with official actions as governor, including these three in early October:

  • After an October 6 meeting with Harris and Individuals A and B, during which Individual B sought state help with a business venture, Blagojevich told Individual A to approach Individual B about raising $100,000 for Friends of Blagojevich this year. Individual A said he later learned that Blagojevich reached out directly to Individual B to ask about holding a fund-raiser;
  • Also on October 6, Blagojevich told Individual A that he expected Highway Contractor 1 to raise $500,000 in contributions and that he was willing to commit additional state money to a Tollway project – beyond $1.8 billion that Blagojevich announced on October15 – but was waiting to see how much money the contractor raised for Friends of Blagojevich; and
  • On October 8, Blagojevich told Individual A that he wanted to obtain a $50,000 contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the chief executive officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which had recently received a commitment of $8 million in state funds. When the contribution was not forthcoming, Blagojevich discussed with Deputy Governor A the feasibility of rescinding the funding.

On October 21, the Government obtained a court order authorizing the interception of conversations in both a personal office and a conference room used by Blagojevich at the offices of Friends of Blagojevich. The FBI began intercepting conversations in those rooms on the morning of October 22. A second court order was obtained last month allowing those interceptions to continue. On October 29, a court order was signed authorizing the interception of conversations on a hardline telephone used by Blagojevich at his home. That wiretap was extended for 30 days on November 26, according to the affidavit.

Another alleged example of a pay-to-play scheme was captured in separate telephone conversations that Blagojevich had with Fundraiser A on November 13 and Lobbyist 1 on December 3. Lobbyist 1 was reporting to Blagojevich about his efforts to collect a contribution from Contributor 1 and related that he “got in his face” to make it clear to Contributor 1 that a commitment to make a campaign contribution had to be done now, before there could be some skittishness over the timing of the contribution and Blagojevich signing a bill that would benefit Contributor 1. Blagojevich commented to Lobbyist 1 “good” and “good job.” The bill in question, which is awaiting Blagojevich ’s signature, is believed to be legislation that directs a percentage of casino revenue to the horse racing industry.

Sale of U.S. Senate Appointment

Regarding the Senate seat, the charges allege that Blagojevich, Harris and others have engaged and are engaging in efforts to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, to benefit Blagojevich and his family through corruptly using Blagojevich’s sole authority to appoint a successor to the unexpired term of the President-elect’s former Senate seat, which he resigned effective November 16. The affidavit details numerous conversations about the Senate seat between November 3 and December 5. In these conversations, Blagojevich repeatedly discussed the attributes of potential candidates, including their abilities to benefit the people of Illinois, and the financial and political benefits he and his wife could receive if he appointed various of the possible candidates.

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office.

In the earliest intercepted conversation about the Senate seat described in the affidavit, Blagojevich told Deputy Governor A on November 3 that if he is not going to get anything of value for the open seat, then he will take it for himself: “if . . . they’re not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it.” Later that day, speaking to Advisor A, Blagojevich said: “I’m going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.” He added later that the seat “is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.”

Over the next couple of days – Election Day and the day after – Blagojevich was captured discussing with Deputy Governor A whether he could obtain a cabinet position, such as Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy or various ambassadorships. In a conversation with Harris on November 4, Blagojevich analogized his situation to that of a sports agent shopping a potential free agent to the highest bidder. The day after the election, Harris allegedly suggested to Blagojevich that the President-elect could make him the head of a private foundation.

Later on November 5, Blagojevich said to Advisor A, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there,” the affidavit states.

Two days later, in a three-way call with Harris and Advisor B, a consultant in Washington, Blagojevich and the others allegedly discussed the prospect of a three-way deal for the Senate appointment involving an organization called “Change to Win,” which is affiliated with various unions including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

On November 10, Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, Governor General Counsel, Advisor B and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed, among other things, a deal involving the SEIU. Harris said they could work out a deal with the union and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Blagojevich’s appointment of Senate Candidate 1, while Blagojevich would obtain a position as the National Director of the Change to Win campaign and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future. Also during that call, Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that the President-elect would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him.

In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.” Earlier in that conversation, Blagojevich suggested starting a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, which he could head and engage in political activity and lobbying. In that conversation with Harris and other discussions with him and others over the next couple of days, Blagojevich suggested by name several well-known, wealthy individuals who could be prevailed upon to seed such an organization with $10-$15 million, and suggesting that he could take the organization’s reins when he is no longer governor, according to the affidavit.

On November 12, Blagojevich spoke with SEIU Official who was in Washington. This conversation occurred about a week after Blagojevich had met with SEIU Official to discuss the Senate seat, with the understanding that the union official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1's interest in the Senate seat. During the November 12 conversation, Blagojevich allegedly explained the non-profit organization idea to SEIU Official and said that it could help Senate Candidate 1. The union official agreed to “put that flag up and see where it goes,” although the official also had said he wasn’t certain if Senate Candidate 1 wanted the official to keep pushing her candidacy. Senate Candidate 1 eventually removed herself from consideration for the open seat.

Also on November 12, in a conversation with Harris, the complaint affidavit states, Blagojevich said his decision about the open Senate seat will be based on three criteria in the following order of importance: “our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon that. Legal. Personal. Political.” Harris said: “legal is the hardest one to satisfy.” Blagojevich said that his legal problems could be solved by naming himself to the Senate seat.

As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was “elevating” Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would “raise [] money” for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.” Noting that he was going to meet with Senate Candidate 5 in the next few days, Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to reach out to an intermediary (Individual D), from whom Blagojevich is attempting to obtain campaign contributions and who Blagojevich believes is close to Senate Candidate 5. Blagojevich told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that Senate Candidate 5 was a very realistic candidate but Blagojevich was getting a lot of pressure not to appoint Senate Candidate 5, according to the affidavit.

Blagojevich allegedly told Fundraiser A to tell Individual D that if Senate Candidate 5 is going to be chosen, “some of this stuff’s gotta start happening now . . . right now . . . and we gotta see it.” Blagojevich continued, “You gotta be careful how you express that and assume everybody’s listening, the whole world is listening. You hear me?” Blagojevich further directed Fundraiser A to talk to Individual D in person, not by phone, and to communicate the “urgency” of the situation.

Blagojevich spoke to Fundraiser A again the next day, December 5, and discussed that day’s Chicago Tribune front page article stating that Blagojevich had recently been surreptitiously recorded as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. Blagojevich instructed Fundraiser A to “undo your [Individual D] thing,” and Fundraiser A confirmed it would be undone, the complaint alleges.

Also on December 5, Blagojevich and three others allegedly discussed whether to move money out of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund to avoid having the money frozen by federal authorities and also considered the possibility of prepaying the money to Blagojevich’s criminal defense attorney with an understanding that the attorney would donate the money back at a later time if it was not needed. They also discussed opening a new fund raising account named Citizens for Blagojevich with new contributions.

Misuse of State Funding To Induce Firing of Chicago Tribune Editorial Writers

According to the affidavit, intercepted phone calls revealed that the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs, has explored the possibility of obtaining assistance from the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) relating to the Tribune Company’s efforts to sell the Cubs and the financing or sale of Wrigley Field. In a November 6 phone call, Harris explained to Blagojevich that the deal the Tribune Company was trying to get through the IFA was basically a tax mitigation scheme in which the IFA would own title to Wrigley Field and the Tribune would not have to pay capital gains tax, which Harris estimated would save the company approximately $100 million.

Intercepted calls allegedly show that Blagojevich directed Harris to inform Tribune Owner and an associate, identified as Tribune Financial Advisor, that state financial assistance would be withheld unless members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board were fired, primarily because Blagojevich viewed them as driving discussion of his possible impeachment. In a November 4 phone call, Blagojevich allegedly told Harris that he should say to Tribune Financial Advisor, Cubs Chairman and Tribune Owner, “our recommendation is fire all those [expletive] people, get ‘em the [expletive] out of there and get us some editorial support.”

On November 6, the day of a Tribune editorial critical of Blagojevich, Harris told Blagojevich that he told Tribune Financial Advisor the previous day that things “look like they could move ahead fine but, you know, there is a risk that all of this is going to get derailed by your own editorial page.” Harris also told Blagojevich that he was meeting with Tribune Financial Advisor on November 10.

In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner “got the message and is very sensitive to the issue.” Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be “certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he’s going after that section.” Blagojevich allegedly responded. “Oh. That’s fantastic.” After further discussion, Blagojevich said, “Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You’re the man. Good job, John.”

In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, “as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field. On November 30, Blagojevich spoke with the president of a Chicago-area sports consulting firm, who indicated that he was working with the Cubs on matters involving Wrigley Field. Blagojevich and Sports Consultant discussed the importance of getting the IFA transaction approved at the agency’s December or January meeting because Blagojevich was contemplating leaving office in early January and his IFA appointees would still be in place to approve the deal, the charges allege.

The Government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Reid Schar, Carrie Hamilton, and Christopher Niewoehner.

If convicted, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while solicitation of bribery carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, and each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000. The Court, however, would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Banks Family Rules

In the overly gentrified Bucktown community on the city's North Side, neighbors call the gigantic gray stone home on Wood Street by a special name: the "French Embassy." But why not give it a proper name -- "La Palais de la famiglia du Pastries Banks."

The massive single-family home that dwarfs neighbors and casts a humongous shadow was featured in the Tribune's amazing series on zoning this week "Neighborhoods for Sale."

Written by Tribune reporters Dan Mihalopoulos, Robert Becker and Darnell Little, the series -- with more installments to come -- focused on what critics call Chicago's corrupt pay-to-play zoning system, and how neighborhoods suffer as real estate developers intersect with aldermanic ambition.

So I stood there on Wood Street on Wednesday, staring at the so-called French Embassy, the mountain of frozen gray stone, the wrought iron-covered balconies, the security cameras right out of a Ludlum novel. It didn't feel like Paris.

It felt more like Albania, at some Ministry of Information, or perhaps the compound of their late dictator, the psychotic communist Enver Hoxha. But I say live and let live. A property owner has the right to build what they choose to build on their own land. Yet not at the expense of their neighbors, merely because they touched their alderman with contributions and got the zoning lawyer whose uncle runs the zoning committee.

The problem with Chicago zoning, according to this series, is that everything is so haphazard, with some aldermen invoking some standards and other aldermen invoking other standards, so there is no one standard.

Except for the Banks Family Standard.

They're the powerful political family on the Northwest Side, picking judges, congressmen and Department of Transportation bosses. Some even consider them the second most powerful family in Chicago politics, behind, of course, Bruno and Toots Caruso from Chinatown.

I don't know if the Banks Family Standard is measured in pounds sterling, or cannoli from the city's finest bakeries, but when it comes to zoning in Chicago, the Banks Family Rules. After the mayor's brother Michael, the Banks family is the alpha and omega of zoning.

You'll find a Banks that sells property. Another that buys property. Another Banks is the city's busiest zoning lawyer.

Ald. William J.P. Banks, chairman of the Committee on Zoning, is the powerful boss of the 36th Ward. He's the boss when his big brother Sam "Pastries" Banks, a powerful attorney, lets him run things. And Pastries is the boss when state Sen. Jimmy DeLeo (D-How You Dooin?) is busy in Springfield, where he's the real governor, having to sometimes keep the pretend governor, Rod Blagojevich, in line.

And what about Jimmy Banks, son of Pastries, and a top zoning lawyer in his own right?

Jimmy Banks was the zoning lawyer for the "French Embassy" expansion, or, as neighbors may call it forevermore, "La Palais de la famiglia du Pastries Banks," and guess what?

It got approved. And the Bankses don't even live there.

His uncle, the alderman, excuses himself from the zoning meeting, as he does periodically when nephew Jimmy's cases come up. He walks into the City Council's back room, and has a sandwich and waits. And like so many times before, the aldermen approve Jimmy's zoning cases, not because he's Pastries' son or the alderman's nephew, or on account of 36th Ward muscle, but because of Jimmy's amazing legal abilities.

Cynics may scoff at such intellectual purity coming from City Hall on zoning issues, but don't be fooled. Chicago aldermen are known to be prisoners of their own virtue.

Pastries and his 36th Ward boys were also mentioned in the recent federal Family Secrets trial of Chicago Outfit crime bosses.

An Outfit sanctioned burglar, Sal Romano, testified that he bribed corrupt police with the help of Sam Banks, though Banks remained mum at the time of the testimony. And Annie Spilotro, widow of Michael "Magnum P.I." Spilotro, also testified that she had disagreements with DeLeo and Jimmy Banks over the sale of her husband's restaurant, after Michael and his brother Tony were murdered.

Apparently, there is bad blood between the families. Annie Spilotro testified that she appealed to Outfit boss James Marcello to iron out things between the Spilotros and Bankses. But the sit-down never took place. And that should have told the Spilotros where they stood.

Like those neighbors living next to the gargantuan structure on Wood Street, there are certain political dictums, (or is that dicta?) in Chicago, as "Neighborhoods For Sale" proved.

One is that you can't fight City Hall. And the other is that when it comes to building and zoning, the Banks Family Rules.

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chicago Mob Consigliere Revealed?

Friends of ours: Nick Calabrese, James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello, Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, Alphonse "Al the Pizza Man" Tornabene, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Sam "Wings" Carlisi, Anthony "Little" Zizzo
Friends of mine: Leo Caruso

Federal documents reveal a new name in the upper crust of the Chicago outfit, a man that some mob experts believe may have become the mob's "elder statesman."
Documents filed by federal prosecutors in the case against 14 top mob figures revealed the identity of what some mobwatchers say is the Chicago outfit's current consigliere. The man's name was blotted out -- redacted --from the government filing. But, the ABC7 I-Team reveals the name behind the black mark.

Mafia initiation ceremonies are not open to the public. The only pictures are cheesy Hollywood reenactments. So when Chicago wiseguy Nick Calabrese started deep dishing outfit details to federal authorities a few years ago, one story stood out. It is explained in a government filing known as a proffer, or play-by-play, of the case that federal prosecutors plan to put on against Chicago hoodlums charged in Operation Family Secrets. The proffer states that Nick Calabrese will testify that a number of individuals were "made" (or inducted) with him in 1983, including co-defendant James "Jimmy the Man" Marcello.

During the "making ceremony," each 'inductee' was accompanied by his crew boss or "capo," according to the government. Two men "conducted the ceremony, which included an oath of allegiance to the organization."

One of the concelebrants was the late Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa, then considered the top ranking boss of the mob. Aiuppa's partner in the blood ceremony was blacked out in publicly filed documents. But, the ABC7 I-Team has seen an un-redacted copy of the filing. We can reveal the name under the black mark: Alphonse Tornabene.

Tornabene is now 84 years old. He is known in mob circles as "Al the Pizza Man." A suburban pizza parlor is still in his family. Even though he owns a summer home in William's Bay, Wisconsin, the I-Team found Tournabene at the front door of his suburban Chicago house and asked him whether he was the grand mobster at an outfit initiation.

GOUDIE: "Know about that?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You don't remember?"

TORNABENE: "No."

GOUDIE: "You and Mr. Aiuppa?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

GOUDIE: "You administered the oath of the Outfit according to the feds?"

TORNABENE: "I don't remember."

"Well, it shows significance, one that they took him under their trust to make such a significant ceremony, in making some mob guys," said Robert Fuesel, former federal agent.

Former IRS criminal investigator Bob Fuesel says Tornabene grew up as an outfit bookie but was apparently being groomed for higher office. With the three elder statesman of the outfit all dead, Joey Aiuppa, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo and Sam "Wings" Carlisi, some federal lawmen believe that the role of consiglieri has fallen on Carlisi's cousin, Al Tornabene, who may have a hard time getting around these days, but is still meeting with known outfit associates.

GOUDIE: "The Crime Commission is saying that you run the mob?"

TORNABENE: (laughs) "I can't even move..."

On several days I-Team surveillance spotted Leo Caruso at Tornabene's home. Seven years ago Caruso was permanently barred from the Laborers' International Union after a federal investigation linked him to the mob's 26th Street crew. A Justice Department report stated that Caruso was "deeply involved with organized crime figures in a substantial manner."

TORNABENE: "He's just a friend..."

GOUDIE: "Mr. Caruso is a friend?"

TORNABENE: "Yes."

The FBI is currently investigating the disappearance of Tornabene's top lieutenant, Anthony "Little" Zizzo. The two men met frequently until last August, when Zizzo mysteriously vanished after leaving his west suburban condo for a meeting on Rush Street.

"Well, these indictments through the US attorney's office, just put everything in disarray, and so do they know what happened to Zizzo. I'm sure somebody does. It's hard for me to believe based upon his reputation that he has not been uncovered and/or is probably deceased," said Fuesel.

"Pizza Al" has no criminal record but comes from a mob family. His late brother Frank was convicted of vote fraud and prostitution and authorities say was active in outfit vice rackets.

The Tournabenes are also related by marriage to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Frank Tournabene was a great uncle to Blagojevich's wife Patty. A spokeswoman for the governor's wife says that while she is aware of her late uncle Frank Tornaebene, she doesn't recall a relative named Al and has no memory of ever meeting such a person.

The I-Team attempted to reach former union boss Leo Caruso about his relationship with pizza l Tornabene. A woman who answered the phone at Caruso's Bridgeport home said he wasn't interested in talking.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Correction Officials Found Not Guilty

Friends of ours: Harry Aleman

A Sangamon County judge Monday issued a directed verdict of not guilty in favor of a former state Department of Corrections official and a former state Prisoner Review Board member who had been accused of abusing their positions.

Both Ronald Matrisciano of Lockport, a former assistant deputy director of Corrections, and Victor E. Brooks of Batavia, a former prison warden and member of the Prisoner Review Board, were indicted by a Lee County grand jury in 2005 on charges of wire fraud and official misconduct in connection with a 2002 parole hearing for Harry Aleman.

Aleman is serving a 100- to 300-year sentence for the September 1972 shooting death of a union steward at a Chicago trucking company.

According to the indictment, Brooks agreed to vote in favor of paroling Aleman in exchange for help getting Brooks' son a job as an entertainer in Las Vegas. That help allegedly was going to come from Matrisciano, who testified during a parole hearing at Dixon Correctional Center in December 2002 that Aleman was "a model prisoner."

Matrisciano also was indicted on a charge of perjury in Sangamon County for allegedly lying during a February 2005 deposition. In that deposition, Matrisciano said he did not appear at the parole hearing in his official capacity as an assistant deputy director at Corrections. The attorney general's office alleged that he had represented his position as that of the department, and that Brooks and Matrisciano schemed to try and get Aleman paroled.

All the charges were consolidated in Sangamon County about six months ago, and Matrisciano and Brooks went on trial without a jury before Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley on Monday.

After hearing the attorney general's office's seven witnesses, Kelley allowed motions by attorneys for the defendants for directed verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

Matrisciano's attorney, Terry Ekl of Clarendon Hills, said that Kelley looked at the transcripts of Matrisciano's testimony before the Prisoner Review Board and found the evidence "fell far short of what the prosecution alleged."

Kelley also found the prosecution produced no proof of Matrisciano and Brooks conspiring to have Aleman paroled or that they used any electronic device to further any kind of scheme.

"There was no proof of any scheme, and the evidence fell short of establishing any illegal activity," Ekl said. "It wasn't even a close call."

Brooks was represented by Peoria attorney Lee Smith.

Ekl said his client, Matrisciano, "has gone through a living hell since this began."

"He's lost his job, and he lost his marriage as a direct result of losing his job," Ekl said. "He broke down in tears when the judge announced his ruling, and he is absolutely elated at the outcome," Ekl said. "He hopes to get his job back."

The Prisoner Review Board denied parole for Aleman, a reputed Chicago mob hit man, despite Matrisciano's testimony.

Aleman was charged in 1972 with murdering a Teamsters official. He was acquitted in 1977, but it later was determined that the judge in the case had been bribed. He was tried again, convicted in 1997 and is serving 100 to 300 years in prison.

A federal lawsuit filed by Matrisciano in 2003 claiming that Illinois corrections officials retaliated against him for testifying at Aleman's parole hearing was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Springfield last year.

U.S. Judge Richard Mills granted summary judgment to Corrections Director Roger Walker Jr. and former acting director Donald Snyder in the case.

Matrisciano had said in his lawsuit that he told Snyder and an associate director he was considering giving a statement to the Prisoner Review Board and that no objections were raised.

About a week after the hearing, Matrisciano was reassigned to a northern Illinois reception facility, which he claimed was a demotion in retaliation for his testimony.

When Gov. Rod Blagojevich took office in 2003, Matrisciano was laid off in a department reorganization unrelated to the controversy over his testimony. Under terms of the layoff, he became eligible to return to work in March 2004 but immediately was put on paid administrative leave while aspects of his testimony were investigated.

Springfield attorney Howard Feldman, who represents Matrisciano in the civil suit, said the dismissal has been appealed to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thanks to Chris Dettro

Friday, March 16, 2007

Don't You Just Love Chicago Fairy Tales?

Don't you just love Chicago Fairy Tales?

They're almost like Russian Fairy Tales, but without the little house that walks on the legs of a chicken.

Instead, Chicago Fairy Tales sometimes involve condos at preconstruction prices, walking around on the pink, hairless feet of a rat.

My favorite Chicago Fairy Tales include:

The Chicago Outfit didn't intend to kill Mayor Anton Cermak. Sen. Barack O'Bama (D-Daley) couldn't see the Real Estate Fairy, the indicted Tony Rezko, coming when they bought property.

Another tale is how mayoral brain Tim Degnan and his developer buddy Tommy DiPiazza aren't trembling with fear about the feds investigating the Bridgeport Village developments. But here's an inspirational rags-to-riches bedtime story perfect for restless inmates in the federal pen: "How Mayor Richard J. Daley launched Uncle Amrish's political career at lunch."

You may have read about Uncle Amrish Mahajan in Wednesday's paper, in a savvy political-investigative article written by Tribune reporters John Chase and David Kidwell.

They tell the tale of Uncle Amrish--called so by the young daughter of Gov. Rod "The Unreformer" Blagojevich--who runs the Mutual Bank in Harvey. And how Mahajan bundled $500,000 in political donations from the Indian community for the current governor. And the connections between Uncle Amrish and his benefactor, insurance mogul and Viagra Triangle fixture Richard "Dickie" Parrillo (who can be found at Tavern on Rush, if you look hard for a short Italian guy in jeans and cowboy boots).

Patti Blagojevich, the governor's wife, has received $113,000 in real estate commissions through the Mahajans.

Amrish's wife, Anita, was recently charged with fraud for running a company that allegedly bilked the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests.

Mahajan's bank handled the mysterious Rezko-O'Bama real estate deal when Rezko was politically radioactive, a deal that O'Bama now calls "boneheaded" and "a mistake." But today's story is about how the Daleys helped Uncle Amrish make it big.

We contacted former Ald. Donald Parrillo (1st), estranged brother of Mahajan's benefactor Richard. The Parrillos were in the banking business together, when the feds brought charges against their bank for laundering drug money, though the Parrillos were never charged.

Donald Parrillo describes a friendless Mahajan newly arrived from India, a lonely little guy willing to work hard and prosper, like Horatio Alger in olden days.

As young Amrish walked in the Loop, an older man fell on the street. The old man happened to be Clem Shapiro, of the Illinois Department of Revenue. "Shapiro was up in years, it was a rainy day, and he slipped on the sidewalk," Donald Parrillo told us. "Amrish had only been in Chicago a short time, a matter of months. He helped Shapiro up, and Shapiro asked if Amrish would like to go to lunch with someone.

Donald said that as they walked, Shapiro turned to the young Horatio Alger Amrish and said: "`I want you to come up and meet somebody I'm having lunch with.' Well, that person was Mayor Daley, Richard J.

"Amrish ended up eating lunch with him. And the mayor said, `What are you going to do now that you're in Chicago?' And Amrish said, `I'd like to get into the banking business.'

"So Mayor Daley said to Amrish, `Go over and see Ald. Parrillo and tell him I would appreciate it if he could help you.'"

Donald Parrillo said that a few days later, he showed up at their National Republic Bank and there was Amrish, already hired by his brother Richard. "If you know my brother Richard, he would have loved to do anything for any politician," Donald said, though Richard J. Daley wasn't just any politician.

Richard Parrillo says Amrish was a Good Samaritan, but downplayed Richard J.'s role and says Shapiro was Amrish's clout.

Either way, the Daleys helped bring Uncle Amrish into the family, and now Blagojevich is getting the heat. Uncle Amrish is so scorching that his contributions to Mayor Richard M. Daley were returned, lest they singe the mayoral fingertips.

The mystery is that the Cook County state's attorney is running the Anita Mahajan investigation, who I'm told stands by her man, even if she'll have to sit in state prison for 10 or 15 years while he's having lunches at Gene & Georgetti.

You'd think local prosecutors would leave this stuff alone, rather than lock witnesses into statements that may hinder a federal case.

If I were an enterprising FBI agent, I'd check Uncle Amrish's relationships with the Daley administration, including the Department of Transportation, which employed engineers on those gigantic mega-projects run by mayoral loyalist, tough Tony Pucillo.

Do you think any of the Department of Tony engineers knew Amrish well? Hmmm.

It might be another Chicago Fairy Tale worth telling--to a federal grand jury.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

State Treasurer Candidate Asked to Explain Mob Allegations

Mike Madigan doesn't get mad. He gets even. And boy, does he get even.

Lobbing another political hand grenade, the state Democratic Party chairman and Illinois House speaker said Tuesday he is withholding his support for Democratic treasurer nominee Alexi Giannoulias until he answers "those allegations of connections to the mob."

"I want some answers," Madigan said. "The allegations are there." The powerful Southwest Side Democrat made the remarks at his annual fund-raiser when I asked him why Giannoulias' photo was still not on the party's Web site.

A North Side banker and political novice, Giannoulias, you will remember, beat Madigan's choice for state treasurer in the primary, Downstater Paul Mangieri. That gave Giannoulias the chance to square off against Republican nominee Christine Radogno in November. But Giannoulias, 30, became engulfed in controversy. The Chicago Tribune published articles about millions of dollars his family-owned bank loaned to two convicted felons and an alleged money-launderer.

Broadway Bank is not accused of anything illegal, but it has been a political embarrassment for Giannoulias, who first called one of the men a "very nice person," then later said he had been too "cavalier."

The bombshell from Madigan recalls his cryptic comments in 2002 about never-explained "indiscretions" of then-Democratic gubernatorial nominee Rod Blagojevich. This time, Madigan is being more pointed. "I mean my history in politics, if you were alleged to be connected to the mob, you were done, but life seems to go on," he said.

Giannoulias told me he feels he has satisfactorily answered reporters' questions about the loans. "I would love to sit down with the speaker at some point," he said. "I've put calls in to his office and see if we could sit down and talk about how we could uh, you know, work together." But Giannoulias conceded he's stumped about what he can do to bring Madigan on board. "You know, I don't know," he said. "I'm a political outsider to some of this, you know, silliness."

Thanks to Carol Marin

Monday, July 17, 2006

"The Unreformer"

Friends of ours: Joe "the Builder" Andriacchi

There's only one politician in Illinois who can make Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Barr Topinka look like a reformer: Gov. Rod "The Unreformer" Blagojevich.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, is also known as "Official A." But that one is on the tongues of rampant speculators who read federal court documents. I'd rather stick to "The Unreformer." It's folksier.

Topinka is looking better by comparison because Blagojevich is being pounded by a scandal a day, with federal investigations of state pension deals, patronage hiring and contract cronyism.

So Judy should be playing "Lady of Spain" on her accordion, waltzing nimbly toward the governor's mansion, correct? Perhaps not.

Blagojevich has entertained the taxpayers of Illinois since he took office as a reformer with the backing of his now estranged father-in-law Ald. Richard Mell (33rd). One of the governor's first reforms was to hire Joe Cini, a City Hall guy from the mayor's Department of General Services, as state patronage chief.

Cini came to my attention in those heady reform days when Blagojevich put Bill Fanning on the Illinois Gaming Board. In 2004, Fanning took part in a mysterious board vote to support a casino in Rosemont, something former Gov. George Ryan wanted as business as usual. But state and federal investigators said a Rosemont casino might not be prudent.

Some Rosemont casino investors were tied to Mayor Richard Daley's City Hall, like Sue Degnan, wife of Daley's political brain Tim Degnan. She was listed, most curiously, as a disadvantaged minority. But the reason the FBI didn't like Rosemont had to do with something else. Investigators believed some Rosemont casino investors had ties to the Chicago Outfit.

After the vote, I learned Fanning was a former shirttail relative of reputed Outfit boss Joe "the Builder" Andriacchi. When I started asking around, he quietly told board members he knew Andriacchi only slightly, then he was quietly let go.

The Blagojevich administration, in full reform mode, quickly fingered Cini as the one who recommended Fanning. And last year, when the indictments of Daley's patronage chief Robert Sorich made news, Blagojevich was asked about patronage armies and reform. He told reporters he called Cini "just to make sure" there was no patronage going on.

"I called up our patronage ... [here Blagojevich stopped in midsentence remembering that patronage meant `business as usual'] "He's not even that. He's intergovernmental affairs director, we even changed the name, and just to get some reassurance ... and his answer kind of summed it up: Of course we don't do those things," Blagojevich said in October of 2005.

Lo and behold, now Cini is under federal investigation for "those things." It was detailed in a fascinating Tribune scoop on July 2 by Tribune reporters Ray Long, Rick Pearson and John Chase. They reported how Blagojevich's own inspector general denounced the administration in a report for subverting state patronage laws, including violating provisions designed to give military veterans preference in winning state jobs. "This effort reflects not merely an ignorance of the law, but complete and utter contempt for the law," wrote Blagojevich's first executive inspector general, Zaldwaynaka "Z" Scott.

Since then it's been story after story, with Blagojevich on the defensive, desperately shaking hands at parades, head bobbing furiously like one of those dolls they give out to the first 10,000 fans at the ballgame, loudly insisting he's a reformer. He says he's glad to hear about the problems, because that way he can fix them. But while Rod is perceived as a phony, Judy can't seem to get much traction. Perhaps that's because Republicans know her too well.

More than half of all rank-and-file Republicans who voted in the primary voted for other candidates. They see Topinka as the handmaiden of the Republican side of the Illinois combine, a creature of party bosses. Included among these is "Big" Bob Kjellander, the Republican National Committee treasurer who scored millions of dollars in finder's fees from Illinois state pension deals under the Blagojevich administration. How's that for bipartisanship cooperation?

Folks trying to explain her problems with conservative Republicans often mention her liberal social views, her support of gay rights and abortion. That's part of it, but a small part.

The core Republican vote is angry over Illinois political corruption and the taxes and the Kjellanders. They know that Topinka, as chairman of the Illinois GOP, helped drive former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald out of politics. She refused to endorse him for re-election though he was the incumbent, because Fitzgerald had the audacity to bring politically independent federal prosecutors to Illinois.

Topinka's bosses didn't like that. But the rank-and-file sure did. So even though Blagojevich's troubles delight the Topinka camp, they must be haunted by this:

Rank-and-file Republicans aren't well organized. They allow themselves to be divided. But like elephants, they never forget.

Thanks to John Kass

Friday, May 06, 2005

Casino hearing expected to call reputed mobster

Reputed Chicago Outfit boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo and his brother, Peter DiFronzo, will be among those called to testify at a state hearing on whether to revoke the state gambling license once destined for Rosemont, Illinois Gaming Board sources said Thursday.

Robert CooleyWhen Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down--the corrupt lawyer turned government informant who testified in mob cases involving the nexus between the Outfit and politicians--is also expected to be called as a witness. Cooley is the author of the book "When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down."

The new head of the Gaming Board said he's looking forward to the hearing but isn't talking about who will testify. "I'd rather not comment on that, because I think it's up to the lawyers to conduct the case as they see it," Chairman Aaron Jaffe told me in a telephone interview. "But I will promise you this. It will be very interesting."

What he didn't say is important here. He didn't say they weren't going to subpoena the tough guys. He didn't say that the DiFronzos and others would not be called. He could have. But he didn't.

Gov. Rod "The Unreformer" Blagojevich appointed Jaffe with the understanding that the Gaming Board was to become independent again. That's nice, since Blagojevich tried to gut the board by denying it a full set of independent investigators.

Jaffe said that to make the board truly independent, though, the governor and the legislature must allow gambling officials to hire more investigators to be led by chief investigator Jim Wagner, the retired chief of the FBI's Organized Crime task force in Chicago. Wagner helped train several current FBI agents who brought the Operation Family Secrets case, with 18 previously unsolved mob murders, to indictment last week.

The Rosemont casino license has been a political Gordian knot. Republican powerhouses have pushed it as a favor to Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens and his ally, the indicted former Gov. George "Safe Roads" Ryan.

Last year, past board chairman Elzie Higginbottom, a longtime ally of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, led a controversial pro-Rosemont ruling. He and other board members dismissed the concerns of Gaming Board staff that Rosemont was mobbed up and approved a plan to steer a license to a new casino in Stephens' town.

One of those pro-Rosemont board members appointed by Blagojevich was Bill Fanning. After the Rosemont vote, Fanning privately told his colleagues he had neglected to inform them that he had once been related by a past marriage to reputed Outfit boss Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi. Then Fanning resigned. There was little official comment about the development. Fanning did tell colleagues, though, that he had rarely spoken to Andriacchi and hadn't seen him in years.

What surprised me was that Blagojevich hadn't asked Fanning--before appointing him--whether he knew any tough guys. But now Blagojevich says independent is a good thing. Good luck, Mr. Jaffe.

Rosemont was once the headquarters of Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana. According to Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan and other law enforcement authorities, Rosemont has been mobbed up.

Mayor Stephens, who will also be called to testify, vigorously disputes this characterization and has released the findings of an investigation he commissioned that said he's never been "connected to or associated with" the Chicago Outfit.

So I mentioned to Jaffe that he might consider calling another witness--Antoinette Giancana, daughter of the murdered Sam Giancana.

Several years ago, as Stephens was railing that his was not an Outfit town, I had breakfast with the gracious Antoinette and she remembered the days when Stephens eagerly hung out with her father at the Thunderbolt motel in the 1960s. Stephens disputes this. Obviously, a hearing would be quite interesting. "We were very friendly and casual and we all had a good time at the pool," she said. "My father's friends were there too. They had their board meetings in the banquet room. And Don was at the motel too, of course."

I asked her if it was true that the daughters of Outfit bosses teased the young and anxious Stephens by ordering him to fetch them towels at poolside. Did you ever say: Hey Don, get me a towel!? "Wait a minute!" Antoinette Giancana said. "I'd never shout, `Don, go get me a towel!' That would be rude. I was ladylike. You would say, `Don? Would you please get me a towel?'"

Recently, Jaffe appointed the distinguished jurist and former congressman Abner Mikva to preside over the hearing on the Rosemont license revocation. Jaffe said he expects Mikva to set a date for the hearing sometime next week. And Mikva has said he doesn't expect the hearing to drag on forever.

With all that's going on--Operation Family Secrets, City Hall corruption cases and Unreformer Blagojevich's problems--it'd be nice to spend time near a pool. Don, would you please bring me a towel?

Thanks to John Kass

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mob Charges Tell a Story, but More isn't Told: How can the Outfit survive without the help of crooked politicians, judges and cops?

How could the Chicago Outfit prosper and survive without the help of corrupt local police, politicians and judges? U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald didn't answer me Monday.

"All I'll say is that the indictment alleges that the Outfit, as part of its method of doing business, corrupted law enforcement," Fitzgerald said in his news conference about the FBI's Operation Family Secrets, which led to indictment of mob bosses allegedly responsible for 18 mob hits and the indictment of two cops.

"The indictment doesn't say anything beyond that, and I'm not going to comment about that," Fitzgerald said.

Afterward, I ran into a man who knows him well. "Why did you ask him that? You know he can't answer. It wasn't in the indictment.

"Do you really need an answer to that one?" he asked.

The investigation started when Outfit hit man Nick Calabrese thought he was a target for murder and began talking to the FBI about unsolved hits, taking them on tours around the city, including to a parking lot at Sox Park where enforcer Michael "Bones" Albergo was dumped in 1970.

Fitzgerald wasn't dodging my question. He could only discuss the indictment. Surely, he knows the answer. You do too.

It is why former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation) was right to bring Patrick Fitzgerald here, when the bosses of the Illinois political combine and their simpering mouthpieces called the senator crazy for insisting we needed an independent outsider as the federal hammer in Chicago.

With all the praise being larded on City Hall lately, consider this: The Hired Truck scandal at City Hall was crawling with Outfit-connected truckers from the 11th Ward. And the Duffs, some of whom boasted of their Outfit connections, drank with Mayor Richard Daley at the Como Inn. Then, for a nightcap, they got $100 million in affirmative-action contracts.

Mob politicians have been pinched. The late Alderman Fred Roti (1st) went to prison. Roti's boss, mob fixer Pat Marcy, died before trial. The mayor broke up the old 1st Ward, called it the 42nd Ward, but that didn't fool anybody. The Outfit political office simply moved West.

Other experts insist there is no Outfit in Chicago. One was the late FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. He liked to win at the track yet refused to believe in the existence of the Chicago Outfit.

Recently, other politicians insisted the Outfit is dead. One is State Senator Jimmy DeLeo (D-Chicago), sage adviser to Govenor Rod Blagojevich. When he started in politics, DeLeo once kept tens of thousands of dollars in his freezer. He probably didn't want it to spoil. "What does that mean, `mob associated?'" DeLeo asked rhetorically, in a 2001 Sun-Times story. "In the year 2001, is there really a mob in Chicago?"

Another political expert is state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano (R-Elmwood Park), who echoed DeLeo. "The Italian Mafia is gone," Saviano was quoted as saying. "I don't see it happening around here." He probably meant on Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park. Outfit? What Outfit?

Then there are the county judges, such as the late Frank Wilson and others, who fixed Outfit murder cases. We've had more than 1,000 mob murders here since the 1920s, and few were solved. That can't happen without the judges.

Let's not forget the police brass. Former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt was sentenced a few years ago for running an Outfit sanctioned nationwide jewelry theft ring, along with his colleague, the reputed hit man Paulie "The Indian" Schiro.

On Tuesday, Schiro was also indicted as part of the FBI's Family Secrets investigation. Other crooked Outfit-connected cops in other investigations include a former lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department's organized crime division who helped another top cop, James O'Grady, become Cook County sheriff in 1986. The Outfit-buster was James Dvorak, known as "The Bohemian," who was made undersheriff and was later convicted of taking bribes from then-Outfit boss Ernest "Rocco" Infelice to protect gambling.

Lt. James Keating, of the Cook County sheriff's office, was sentenced to 40 years on federal racketeering charges. He, like Hanhardt, had been smooched by the media as a hero cop while on the force. Later, Keating was found to have killed the investigation of the 1978 murders of thieves Donald Renno and Vincent Moretti, in Cicero, according to a 1989 Tribune review of the case.

Renno and Moretti were suspected of burglarizing the home of mob boss Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo. The murders of Moretti and Renno were solved, according to Monday's indictments.

When I first wrote about Nick Calabrese in February 2003, I told you we'd wait for indictments, and they arrived Monday.

You already know the general outline. But the story isn't over. The main question hasn't been answered, specifically, with names on indictments. How can the Outfit survive without the help of crooked politicians, judges and cops?

Thanks to John Kass


New York Crime Families

Flash Mafia Book Sales!

Al Capone's Vault

Crime Family Index


The Sopranos Library