The Chicago Syndicate: Sal Romano
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Showing posts with label Sal Romano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sal Romano. Show all posts

Friday, February 20, 2009

Labor Union Drops Attorney Who Was Mentioned by Witness at Family Secrets Mob Trial

The union representing hotel and restaurant workers severed ties with a politically connected Chicago lawyer whose name surfaced at the Family Secrets Chicago mob trial.

Samuel Banks was on the payroll of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, and its successor organization, Unite Here, since at least 1989. A court-appointed union watchdog raised questions more than a decade ago about what Mr. Banks did for his salary there.

In August 2007, former mob-linked burglar Sal Romano testified at the Family Secrets trial that he had bribed police officers through Mr. Banks and another lawyer. Mr. Banks, who is also a criminal defense attorney, hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing.

Mr. Banks is the brother of Chicago Alderman William Banks (36th), father of tollway board member James Banks and father-in-law of state Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago. Mr. Banks did not return calls.

Mr. Banks and the union parted ways at the end of last year. A labor leader said the split had nothing to do with the accusation made at the trial. “It was based primarily on finances,” said Henry Tamarin, an executive vice-president of the international and president of Chicago-based Unite Here Local 1, which represents roughly 15,000 workers, including those on strike at the Congress Hotel.

U.S. Labor Department records indicate Local 1 paid Mr. Banks $48,000 for “legal counsel” in 2007. As for Mr. Banks’ role at Local 1, “he generally advised us politically,” Mr. Tamarin said.

Mr. Banks also was on the international union payroll as a lobbyist and was paid $88,000 in 2007, the most recent year federal records are available. His employment ended with the new year, a spokesman confirmed.

Unite Here groups contributed at least $25,000 over the past three years to the campaign fund of William Banks, and at least $10,000 to Mr. Fritchey, now running for Congress.

Mr. Banks was a close associate of the late Ed Hanley, who ran the international union until he was forced out in 1998 amid corruption allegations by a court-appointed monitor.

Around that time, the monitor, former U.S. Justice Department attorney Kurt Muellenberg, released a report that, among other things, questioned what Mr. Banks and other consultants did for the union since their work was not documented or itemized.

Thanks to Robert Herguth

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

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A-List Could Testify about Mob Family Secrets

Friends of ours: James LaValley, Lenny Patrick, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Sal Romano, Frank Cullotta, Tony Spilotro

A former adult bookstore owner and an ex-juice loan enforcer who once threatened to cut off the remaining arm of an amputee are among the witnesses who could testify in the upcoming blockbuster Family Secrets mob trial in Chicago, the Sun-Times has learned.

Federal prosecutors are expected to put forward a parade of former wiseguys in the trial, beginning in May, that aims to solve 18 mob hits and puts some of the top reputed mobsters in Chicago on the hot seat.

Former enforcer James LaValley, who once belonged to the street crew of one-time top mobster Lenny Patrick, has cooperated with the government for more than 15 years after a career in which he specialized in so-called "hard-to-collect" debts.

LaValley, an intimidating, sizable man, testified in an earlier mob trial that he cut the hand of one deadbeat gambler and threatened to cut off the arm of a bookie who was an amputee.

Another potential witness in the Family Secrets case is former adult bookstore owner William "Red" Wemette, according to sources familiar with the matter. Wemette repeatedly helped record one defendant in the case, reputed mob killer Frank "The German" Schweihs, who was convicted of extorting Wemette during the 1980s.

Also on tap as potential witnesses are two former members of the burglary crew run by Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas. Both Sal Romano and Frank Cullotta have testified previously at mob trials.

It's unclear exactly what the witnesses would testify about at trial, but they could provide jurors with expansive views of their slice of mob life in Chicago.

Attorney Joseph Lopez, who represents reputed mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Family Secrets case, said he had seen LaValley testify in another case years ago and did not share the government's estimation of him. LaValley is "a real character," Lopez said. LaValley "loves himself to death. If he could look at himself in the mirror all day, that's all he'd do."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir


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