The Chicago Syndicate: Samuel Volpendesto
Showing posts with label Samuel Volpendesto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samuel Volpendesto. Show all posts

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Flashback: Prison Release of Betty Loren-Maltese Awakens Organized Crime Mystique of Cicero

Prohibition was the law of the land when Al Capone took over Cicero in 1924, muscling his way in with gun-toting hoodlums on Election Day. And many residents were happy to hear his beer wagons rumbling through the streets en route to speakeasies.

More than 80 years later, this sleepy-looking suburb of blue-collar bungalows and strip malls a few miles west of Chicago still hasn't shaken its reputation for mob influence, political scandal and corruption, even as leaders insist they've put it behind them.

"The organized crime mystique _ that's the reason for our image," says town spokesman Ray Hanania, insisting President Larry Dominick has "taken politics out of town government" since taking office in 2005. The story of Cicero and the mob, he said, is "a great story and it's easy to write but it's unfair."

Critics, though, say corruption still hangs thick in the air.

About a week ago, former town President Betty Loren-Maltese returned to Chicago after 6 1/2 years in prison for fleecing taxpayers of more than $12 million in a mob-related insurance scam. The money paid for an island golf course in Wisconsin, a horse farm and a summer home for reputed mob boss Mike Spano, who went to prison along with Loren-Maltese.

Loren-Maltese was boosted into politics by her late husband, former Cicero town assessor Frank "Baldy" Maltese, who was indicted on corruption charges in the early 1990s along with Rocco Infelice, reputed one-time boss of the Cicero mob. Maltese pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 1993 but died of cancer before going to prison. Infelice died behind bars.

No sooner had the once-jovial Loren-Maltese _ sporting her trademark flamboyant hairdo but grim and silent behind large dark glasses _ arrived Monday to start a four-month term in a halfway house, than news surfaced that she and her elderly mother were receiving health insurance benefits from the very town fund that Loren-Maltese was convicted of looting.

Hanania said Loren-Maltese received the benefits under a law she "rammed through" while still in office that provides coverage to all Cicero elected officials for life, and her mother got insurance for serving on the police and fire commission for 10 years.

By Tuesday, officials in the town of about 85,000 decided her mother wasn't entitled to the coverage because she never held elective office, and terminated it. But that wasn't the only problem, critics say. Dominick, a hefty ex-cop who served on the Cicero force for years, also has found jobs for a number of his relatives on the town payroll, including a son who works as the human resources director.

"I think they haven't really changed since the Al Capone era in their approach to government and politics and civic decency," says Andy Shaw, head of Chicago's Better Government Association. "This is the town that time forgot."

Not that some things haven't changed.

Scantily clad prostitutes no longer saunter in the neon haze outside the mob-connected strip joints that flourished along Cicero Avenue in the 1950s and 1960s. Gone are the no-name prize fighters who once slugged it out in a little arena in a cloud of colored smoke and flickering strobe lights.

"The place was crawling with vice and gambling," said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit," a history of the city's organized crime family. "It was the same story in some other little suburbs where the mob could get its hooks in, but Cicero was sort of the crown jewel, maybe because of its location close to Chicago and because Capone pushed his way in there."

Now it all seems comparatively tame. Almost.

In February 2003, a massive pipe bomb erupted on a quiet street in Berwyn, a neighboring suburb. The explosion blew away the front of a company that distributed the video poker machines that federal prosecutors say were used for illegal gambling throughout Chicago and its suburbs.

Prosecutors said it was organized crime's way of delivering the message that horning in on its monopoly on video poker machines was dangerous _ and at the time, the biggest distributor of the machines in the western suburbs was based in Cicero.

It was owned by Michael Marcello, whose brother, James Marcello, went to prison for life following the 2007 Operation Family Secrets trial, the biggest mob case in Chicago in decades. Michael Marcello also went to prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and other offenses for running a gambling business and paying the government's star witness in the Family Secrets case, Nicholas Calabrese, to keep mum.

Then in 2008, Cicero jewelry store owner Mark Polchan and Samuel Volpendesto, a tiny, white-bearded, 86-year-old former manager of a Cicero strip joint, were indicted on charges of blowing up the Berwyn video poker company.

Last year, the charges against the two men became part of a larger, racketeering indictment that added five other defendants, including a Cicero police officer. All have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in September.

Originally reported by Mike Robinson on 2/21/10.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno Found Guilty of Racketeering Conspiracy

Reputed Cicero mob boss Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno took a big fall Wednesday after he was convicted in federal court of a racketeering conspiracy charge that could put him behind bars for 25 years.

“God!” Sarno’s wife, Nicole, yelled out in the courtroom as a federal judge agreed to a prosecutor’s request that the mobster, out on bond, should be taken into custody immediately, just three days before Christmas. His daughter, Angelica, a college student who attended many days of the trial, broke down, sobbing loudly.

Sarno, 52, was convicted along with his friend, Outlaw motorcycle gang member Mark Polchan, 43, as well as the video poker king of the Chicago area, Casey Szaflarski, 52, mob bomber Sam Volpendesto, 86, and his son, Anthony, 48, a prolific thief.

The centerpiece of the case was the bombing in 2003 of a storefront in Berwyn, targeting a businessman competing with Sarno in the video poker business. No one was hurt in the pipe bomb blast, but it gutted the building.

Authorities say the case showed the Chicago Outfit outsourcing some of its dirty work — the bombing of a competitor and the later intimidation of a witness — to a motorcycle gang during a time when the Outfit was under keen pressure from the historic Family Secrets mob investigation.

Over a six-week trial, federal prosecutors Amarjeet Bhachu, Tinos Diamantatos and Michael Donovan called more than 80 witnesses, played more than 70 audio or video recordings and entered more than 300 exhibits into evidence to show a wide-ranging conspiracy, that included a slew of home robberies and jewelry store burglaries, that was investigated by the FBI, ATF and IRS.

The jury’s decision marks the third conviction for Sarno in an organized crime case. Sarno started his career in organized crime at 17 as an enforcer. Working his way up the ranks, Sarno — about 6-foot-3 and topping 300 pounds at his heaviest — has never been known as the brains of the mob but rather as a tough guy willing to inspire fear and snatch someone else’s profitable scheme. While Sarno oversaw the criminal group, he likely won’t face the most time in prison when the men are sentenced in May.

Polchan and Sam Volpendesto were convicted with taking part in the bombing of the Berwyn business and face mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years behind bars for that crime alone. Each man could be sentenced to more than 50 years behind bars — a death sentence for Sam Volpendesto.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, December 03, 2010

Defense Cross-Examination of Key Witness at Sarno Trial

Defense lawyers began cross-examining a key government witness in the federal racketeering case against Chicago Outfit boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno.

In New York and in the movies, the code of silence is called "omerta." In the Chicago Outfit, wiseguys play by their own rules, and they don't have a fancy Italian nickname for keeping quiet. They're just supposed to do it.

For suburban mob boss Mike Sarno, the top defendant in the current Outfit prosecution, it is clear that the code of silence is sometimes tough to enforce.

When the I-Team showed up at Sarno's Westchester home a few years ago, he had no problem clamming up in front of the camera. But about that same time, the FBI was listening in on Sarno's phone calls, as agents investigated the mob bombing of a Berwyn video poker company and links between the Outfit and the Outlaws biker gang.

In one secretly recorded phone call with a longtime family friend, Sarno could almost be heard cringing.

KANTOWSKI : Mike, how are you doing?
SARNO: How you doin', buddy?
KANTOWSKI: Good, I'm sitting here with, ah, Frank Caruso, um,
Dominick Montagna and Frank Depollo.
SARNO: Oooh, oh you, oh boy.
KANTOWSKI: Trying to work this out.
SARNO: Alright.
KANTOWSKI: Uh oh, I'm in trouble.
SARNO: Talk to you later.

Caruso, a South Side Outfit boss, and the other names were unwelcome subjects of that phone call between Mike Sarno and his friend David Kantowski, who says he was a 25-year friend of Sarno's. An hour later, they talked again.

SARNO: Ok, well, listen, I, I, I just got to, I want to tell you something. I appreciate everything you are doing for me, buddy, but please stop with the names on my phone. Please.
KANTOWSKI: Ok.
SARNO: I know I'm paranoid, but I got good reason to be.
KANTOWSKI: I wasn't even thinking, Mike I, I apologize, I wasn't even thinking about that, God d------t.
SARNO: Well, listen ...
KANTOWSKI: Sorry buddy.
SARNO: I'll do the thinking for us with that stuff because, ah ... Believe me, it's a shame we got to be like that, but we do.

Kantowski is a Chicago real estate agent and is related to two of the defendants in the case, Sam and Anthony Volpendesto.

Mr. Kantowski told the I-Team late Thursday that he may be called as a rebuttal witness during the trial.

All day Thursday, prime government witness Kyle Knight was on the stand. He provided the bomb components for that Berwyn attack.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Large Guy Trial Starts

An unusual organized crime case began Wednesday in Chicago federal court. Prosecutors say there was an alliance between the Outfit and the Outlaws. In this Intelligence Report: Why is this considered a "large" case for the government?

The Chicago Outfit has always been an insular organization, top hoodlums usually unwilling to welcome other criminal groups to the fold. So this alliance that federal prosecutors say was forged between the Outfit and the Outlaws motorcycle gang is considered unique in all of mobdom.

The largest part of this five-defendant case walked into the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday predicting victory. Michael Sarno, 52, known in mob circles as "the Large Guy," is a convicted west suburban rackets boss now on trial for allegedly ordering the 2003 firebombing of a Berwyn business that was competing against the mob's illegal video poker trade.

Standing trial with Sarno are 86-year-old Samuel Volpendesto, his son, Anthony, Mark Polchan, an admitted member of the Outlaws biker gang, and Casey Szaflarski, who allegedly ran illegal gambling operations.

According to the indictment, Sarno oversaw the Outfit-Outlaw joint venture and received a cut of the illegal wagering profits.

"I think that case provides a perfect illustration of why the Outfit is still dangerous and shouldn't be counted out," said T. Marcus Funk, former federal prosecutor. "Forming an alliance like that, being adaptable, being able to change with the circumstances, and also using being able to use violence when necessary. It may not be something done on a daily basis like it was in the 50s, but violence is still a tool for the Outfit."

The case took shape in 2008 when FBI agents raided several Outlaws clubhouses, seizing weapons, bulletproof vests and police badges-- at the same time executing search warrants on Sarno's suburban home.

As a budding hoodlum, Sarno once tipped the scales at about 400 pounds, and at that time went by the nickname "Fat Boy."

Even though he appears to have dropped a few pounds, by whatever mob moniker Wednesday, the issue of nicknames was a factor in jury selection. Several prospective jurors were dismissed after saying mob nicknames might cause them to be prejudiced against the defendants.

Several casino employees were also dismissed. Six jurors were seated to hear the case.

The mob trial will be off Thursday for federal Veterans Day and jury selection resumes on Friday morning. It is expected to last about three weeks.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Peeking Inside Chicago's Modern Day Mob

The trial of a reputed mob boss known for his wide girth and alleged penchant for violence will offer a peek into the inner workings of Chicago-area organized crime, laid low by prosecutions that sent older mobsters to prison for life.

Michael “The Large Guy” Sarno, whose racketeering trial starts Wednesday in Chicago, is considered — at the relatively young age of 52 — a different breed of mobster, someone whose talents as an enforcer normally would not have translated into a top mob job.

“I would say he is the perfect example of the new face of the mob,” said Art Bilek, a one-time mob investigator at the Cook County State’s attorney’s office. “He has street smarts — he’s not a dope. What he simply doesn’t have is the intelligence some of the earlier guys had.”

That goes to show how far the mob has fallen, he and other law enforcement experts said.

The 2007 Family Secrets trial, the biggest such trial in Chicago in decades, was a body blow to the Chicago-area mob, also known as the Chicago Outfit. It ended in life sentences for reputed bosses James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo.

With aging kingpins behind bars and others dying, a weakened Outfit has scaled back a network that in its heyday, around 1970, encompassed operations ranging from prostitution and drugs to multimillion-dollar scams involving corrupt unions or Las Vegas casinos. But racketeering laws designed to target organized crime, aggressive federal prosecutors and competition from big-city street gangs or biker syndicates have severely cut into mob-associated operations. Not surprisingly, mobster numbers are down.

There are now fewer than 100 people formally initiated into the Chicago-area mob compared with more than 200 ‘made men’ around 1970, estimated Scott Burnstein, co-author of a book on the Family Secrets trial.

In Chicago, the mob now focuses more heavily on running illegal video gaming, with approximately 25,000 machines in bars and restaurants, generating millions of dollars in revenue, according to some estimates.

It’s leaders allegedly include Sarno, who weighed as much as 300 pounds and was known for using his bulk to collect mob gambling debts as an enforcer. Bilek says he suspects Sarno may have taken over operations in the city’s western suburbs from one of the imprisoned bosses.

Sarno’s defense attorney, Michael Gillespie, said allegations his client is linked to the mob are “fanciful.”

“The associations he has are with his family — his mom and dad,” Gillespie said Tuesday.

Whatever the case, it is impossible to know just where Sarno would fit in. That’s partly because the mob’s old pyramid structure is coming undone and true leaders are eager to maintain a low profile, even endeavoring to keep violence at a minimum, Bilek said.

Burnstein said there are reasons to question what would be the extent of Sarno’s power. For one, mob bosses want to see crime organizations they built up over decades continue after their deaths, so it’s likely more savvy mobsters also are being promoted. “I don’t think it’s quite fair to say Sarno’s the new face of the mob, therefore the mob is dead because he’s an idiot,” Burnstein said. “If he is the new power, I agree it wouldn’t bode well. But I’m sure there are other competent mobsters who aren’t just thugs.”

Sarno is accused of ordering co-defendants Mark Polchan and Sam Volpendesto to set off a bomb that wrecked the offices of a gaming company in Berwyn, C&S Coin Amusements. The aim, say prosecutors, was to send a message: Stop horning in on a profitable mob business.

The indictment alleges the enterprise Sarno was a part of also was responsible for burglaries and jewel thefts. The armed robbery of the Marry Me Jewelry Store in LaGrange Park netted nearly $650,000-worth of jewelry and other valuables, according to the indictment.

Sarno, Volpendesto and Polchan all have pleaded not guilty to racketeering and other related charges.

Polchan’s attorney, Damon Cheronis, would only say Tuesday that trial observers will see “a different picture painted than the one painted by the government.” Volpendesto’s lawyer, Michael Mann, declined to comment.

Thanks to LCN

Monday, July 27, 2009

85 Year Old Denied Release from Custody in Reputed Mob Pipe Bombing Case

A federal judge today refused to release from custody an elderly Oak Brook man charged with the Outfit-related pipe-bombing of a video gambling machine business.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier said he believes 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto has serious health problems but found the risk of flight was too great to release him from the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown.

Volpendesto is charged in a case that links the Chicago mob and the Outlaws motorcycle gang to the pipe bombing of a Berwyn business that was in competition with the Outfit. Reputed mobster Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno also was indicted in the case.

Nathan Diamond-Falk, Volpendesto's lawyer, argued his client is suffering at the MCC from bladder cancer and an infection from a cut he sustained in the spring. It would be a life sentence for Volpendesto to remain jailed before a trial, Diamond-Falk said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk told the judge Volpendesto looked vigorous in court before the hearing started and was "acting like a clown, frankly." Volpendesto can be heard on secretly made tapes in the case linking himself to the Outfit and the 2003 bombing, Funk said.

At different points in one recording, Funk said, Volpendesto bragged about working for mobsters with ties to legendary Outfit boss Al Capone and claimed he also worked for the late mob boss Sam Giancana.

At Funk's request, a jail official informed the court about Volpendesto's ongoing medical treatment at the MCC.

Schenkier ultimately rejected Volpendesto's request, noting the crime was very serious and suggesting that despite the fact Volpendesto is confined to a wheelchair, he could still flee and not be available to have his case heard by a jury.

That could be his choice, Schenkier said, or the choice of the Outfit if the mob perceived Volpendesto could help the government. "He might have assistance in not being around at trial," the judge said.

Thanks to WGN

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Not Guilty Pleas in Chicago Mob, Motorcycle Club Racketeering Case

Two men have pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges linked to organized crime in Chicago.

Forty-one-year-old Mark Polchan and 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto have been in federal custody for more than a year. They appeared Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier.

Both men are accused of touching off a February 2003 bomb blast in Berwyn that wrecked the offices of a suburban Chicago video gaming company.

Prosecutors say it was a message from the mob warning the company to stop horning in on the video gaming business.

The two were among seven men recently charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment that outlines a wave of robberies, burglaries, arsons and other crimes.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Top Outfit Member and Current Cicero Police Officer Face Racketeering Indictment

Racketeering indictments have been handed up against a top Outfit member and a current Cicero police officer on charges that include armed robbery, arson and illegal gambling.

The case grew from a 2003 bombing of a gaming house in Berwyn that was allegedly ordered by the mob and carried out by members of a violent motorcycle gang.

The lead defendant is Mike Sarno, a career hoodlum who as a rising mob figure was known as "Fat Boy" due to his bulging, 350 pound waistline. Now, as a 51-year old boss Sarno is known in Outfit circles as "The Large Guy."

Sarno's home was among six locations that were the subject of search warrants last summer.

Sarno has already served time in prison for his involvement in organized crime.

The word "mob" is no where to be seen in Thursday's rackets indictments and federal prosecutors declined to speak the words "outfit" or "underworld." But they didn't have to.

Mike Sarno, the lead man charged, is already a convicted mob boss who investigators say has worked his way up through syndicate ranks during the past three decades.

When the I-Team last saw Mike Sarno, it was outside his home in suburban Westchester. On Thursday night, eight months later, Mr. Sarno was named in a federal grand jury indictment.

Sarno is charged with leading an eight year crime spree that featured lucrative jewel heists and forging an alliance with the outlaws motorcycle gang. Their partnership punctuated by a bombing in west suburban Berwyn, intended to take down a video poker machine company that was competing with the mob's own illegal gambling business.

"Our allegations in the indictment are that people broke the law; and that they broke it in a number of ways. Some having to do with illegal gambling, some having to do with robbery and theft and arson," said Patrick Fitzgerald, United States attorney.

Sarno, newly charged on Thursday, aka Big Mike, Mikey, Large and the Large Guy, allegedly oversaw enterprise gambling and that bomb attack.

From the time Sarno was known as "Fat Boy" and went to prison as a mob soldier 15 years ago, Outfit experts say he was destined to lead a street crew. That is just what he did with the Enterprise, according to authorities who say the headquarters was a jewelry store in Cicero used to fence stolen goods.

The store, owned by outlaw biker Mark Polchan who was previously charged along with 85-year-old Samuel Volpendesto of Oak Brook and Kyle Knight who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating.

Four other men are charged with the robberies and jewel thefts including Volpendesto's son as well as James Formato, a former Berwyn policeman, and Dino Vitalo, an 18-year Cicero policeman who is still on the job. "He was sent home on administrative pay leave. That's where he is now. He is off the streets. Town president immediately indicated that if these charges prove to be true they are sickening and there is no room in the Cicero Police Department," said Elio Montenegro, Cicero spokesman

There are no court dates yet in this case.

Cicero officials say at some point Officer Vitalo will be placed on unpaid leave.

Feds are allowing him to turn himself in at the time of arraignment; same for the ex-Berwyn cop. And, curiously, the same consideration is being given to Mike Sarno, the ex-con crime syndicate boss. Sarno was not one of those arrested on Thursday. The U.S. attorney offered little explanation except to suggest that they do things for a reason.

Here are details provided by the United States Attorney in Chicago:

Five new defendants, together with two others who were initially charged last year with using a pipe bomb to damage a Berwyn video and vending machine business in 2003, were indicted on sweeping racketeering conspiracy charges alleging eight years of criminal activity, federal law enforcement officials announced today. The charges encompass at least nine armed robberies and thefts, arson, illegal gambling and obstruction justice, including by current and former suburban police officers who are among the seven defendants. New defendant, Michael Sarno, allegedly oversaw, directed and guided certain of the group's illegal activities, including causing previously-charged defendants Mark Polchan and Samuel Volpendesto, to bomb C & S Coin Operated Amusements, a video gaming device business in Berwyn, to eliminate competition and to protect and enhance the group's own business relationships, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that the seven defendants were associated in a criminal enterprise that existed since at least 2001 to generate income for its members through illegal activities, including: committing armed robberies and thefts from jewelry stores, businesses and private residences; transporting stolen goods across state lines; committing thefts and obtaining stolen items from interstate shipments of goods; purchasing, possessing and selling stolen goods; using threats, violence and intimidation to advance the enterprise's illegal activities; committing arson; operating and facilitating illegal gambling businesses, including the use of video gambling machines; obstructing justice and criminal investigations by tampering with and intimidating witnesses; obstructing justice and criminal investigations by gathering information about the existence and extent of ongoing federal criminal investigations from sources including corrupt local law enforcement officers and law enforcement databases; and traveling in interstate commerce to further the goals of the criminal enterprise.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $1,878,172 from six of the seven defendants as proceeds of the alleged racketeering activity.

Law enforcement agents yesterday executed federal search warrants at more than two dozen suburban locations, including bars and restaurants, in connection with the ongoing investigation.

The 12-count superseding indictment was returned on May 21 and unsealed today, announced Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.

All seven defendants, including four currently in custody, will be arraigned at later dates in U.S. District Court.

Sarno, 51, of Westchester, also known as "Big Mike," "Mikey," "Large," and "the Large Guy," allegedly oversaw the group's illegal gambling ventures and received a share of the illegal profits from Polchan, 41, formerly of Justice, who also occupied a leadership role. The indictment alleges that Polchan identified targets for robbery and used his business, a sole proprietorship operating under the names "M. Goldberg Jewelers," and "Goldberg Jewelers," located at 1203 South Cicero Ave., in Cicero, to conduct meetings with criminal associates, as well as to obtain, store, and sell stolen goods that were either transported across state lines, obtained through robbery or thefts from interstate shipments, or obtained through the fraudulent use of access devices, such as credit cards.

Polchan also used Goldberg Jewelers to plan the group's illegal gambling activities with Sarno, and to temporarily house video gambling devices prior to distributing them to various locations, including clubhouses operated by the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, of which Polchan was a member.

Polchan and Volpendesto, 85, of Oak Brook, remain in federal custody since they were arrested and charged last summer with participating in the bombing of C & S Coin Operated Amusements. On Feb. 25, 2003, a pipe bomb was detonated outside a building at 6508 West 16th St., in Berwyn, that housed several businesses, including C & S, which at the time leased coin-operated vending and video machines. The explosion outside the storefront entrance to C & S caused broken windows and damage to the interior ceiling and wood frame above the doorway to the business. No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred at night. The new indictment contains the same three counts  conspiracy to use, and actual use of, an explosive device to damage property, and use of a pipe bomb  that were pending against them previously. Polchan and Volpendesto have both pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Also indicted were:

James Formato, 42, a former Berwyn police officer who allegedly acted as an interstate courier for stolen money; conducted physical surveillance of potential targets of illegal activity under the guise of carrying out his duties as a police officer; participated in an attempted armed robbery; and provided information concerning ongoing law enforcement investigation into illegal enterprise activity, including the bombing of C & S Coin Operated Amusements;

Mark Hay, 52, who allegedly participated in robberies of jewelry stores; identified potential targets for robbery; participated in the surveillance of robbery targets; and acquired stolen vehicles for use in robberies;

Anthony Volpendesto, 46, Samuel Volpendesto's son, who also allegedly participated in robberies of jewelry stores; identified potential robbery targets; and participated in the interstate transportation of stolen goods; and

Dino Vitalo, 40, a Cicero police officer since 1991, who allegedly caused law enforcement databases to be used to provide information about potential targets of illegal activity and ongoing federal law enforcement investigations; provided advice on possible federal law enforcement activity; searched the area surrounding Goldberg Jewelers for electronic surveillance equipment used by federal law enforcement; and filed a false police report in order to provide a false alibi for other members of the conspiracy.

As part of the racketeering conspiracy, the indictment alleges that one or more of the defendants participated in robberies, some armed, of jewelry stores and commercial businesses in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and in some instances caused stolen jewelry to be transported across state lines. The robberies included the:

May 23, 2002, robbery of items valued at approximately $60,000 from Jacqueline's Jewelry in Valparaiso, Ind.;
June 6, 2002, robbery of items valued at approximately $48,000 from Husar's House of Fine Diamonds in West Bend, Wis.;
July 9, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $78,221 from Uffenbeck Jewelers in Fond du Lac, Wis.;
July 24, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $236,902 from LD Jewelers, in Hickory Hills, Ill.;
April 26, 2001, robbery of The Gold Mine Jewelry Store, in St. Charles, Illinois, the stolen items having a total value of approximately $29,780;
May 1, 2002, robbery of items valued at $239,752 from Lenna Jewelers in Hinsdale;
March 2003 attempted armed robbery of an individual who resided in Berwyn; and the
Aug. 25, 2003, armed robbery of items valued at approximately $645,517 from Marry Me Jewelry Store in LaGrange Park.

And one or more defendants allegedly participated in the 2002 residential burglary of a home on Rockwell Street in Chicago, stealing approximately $540,000, of which at least $150,000 was later transported to Florida.

In addition to the racketeering conspiracy against all seven defendants, Sarno and Polchan were charged with operating an illegal gambling business between 2002 and at least July 2008.

Formato alone was charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct of justice, while Polchan and Vitalo were charged together in a separate count with conspiracy to obstruct justice. Polchan alone was also charged with one count of possession of stolen goods from interstate shipments; three counts of filing false individual federal income tax returns; and one count of failing to file a federal income tax return.

An earlier defendant in this investigation, Kyle C. Knight, 45, formerly of Merrillville, Ind., who was charged in 2007, has pleaded guilty to supplying explosives used in the C & S bombing and a series of robberies, and he is cooperating while awaiting sentencing.

Federal officials said the investigation is continuing, and they commended the assistance of the Berwyn Police Department. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

If convicted, the charges in the indictment carry the following maximum terms of incarceration: racketeering conspiracy  20 years; conspiracy to use an explosive device to damage property and using an explosive device to damage property  a mandatory minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years; using a pipe bomb  a mandatory consecutive sentence of at least 30 years and a maximum of life; obstruction of justice  20 years; operating an illegal gambling business  5 years; possession of goods stolen from interstate shipments  10 years; filing false tax returns  3 years; and failing to file a tax return  1 year. In addition, each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, except the failing to file count, which is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $100,000. Defendants convicted of tax offenses must be assessed mandatory costs of prosecution and remain liable for any back taxes, interest and penalties owed. The Court, however, would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Racketeering Indictment Nabs Reputed Mob Boss and Police Officer

A reputed mob boss, a police officer and five other men were charged Thursday in a sweeping racketeering indictment that alleges eight years of armed robberies, burglaries, jewel thefts and arson based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno, 51, of Westchester allegedly masterminded much of the group's illegal activity, including a February 2003 pipe-bomb explosion that wrecked the storefront offices of a company distributing video poker machines.

Prosecutors say the bombing was a message from organized crime to stop intruding on its $13-million-a-year video poker gambling business.

Sarno, 51, went to prison in the early 1990s as a member of an organized crime family based in the western suburbs headed by Ernest Rocco Infelice.

Federal agents searched Sarno's home last July and also raided the headquarters and various hangouts of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. An alliance has developed between the violence-prone club and the Chicago mob, prosecutors say.

Sarno's attorney, Terence P. Gillespie, did not return a message for comment. But he said in a previous interview with The Associated Press that Sarno was not a mob member and was "a legitimate businessman."

Attorneys for the other defendants were not reached immediately. Messages were left at the offices of four defense attorneys whose names were learned.

Two men arrested the day of the July 2008 searches and later indicted, Mark Polchan, 41, an acknowledged member of the Outlaws, and Samuel Volpendesto, 85, were also charged in the fresh indictment. They are accused of setting off the bomb that demolished C&S Coin Operated Amusements of Berwyn, a video poker device distributor. At the time, a video poker distributing company controlled by members and associates of the Chicago mob had a grip on the market for the devices, experts say.

Video poker devices are legal in Illinois if they are not used for gambling, but bartenders often pay winners under the table in many places and experts say the mob frequently takes a healthy cut of what the machines take in.

Gov. Pat Quinn is deciding whether to sign a bill to make video poker gambling legal to finance public works _ something good government forces deplore. They say the machines are addictive and some breadwinners have gambled away their paychecks.

Also charged in the indictment:

_James Formato, 42, a former Berwyn police officer accused of serving as a courier for stolen money, taking part in an attempted robbery and other crimes.

_Mark Hay, 52, described as taking part in the robbery of jewelry stores.

_Anthony Volpendesto, 46, son of Samuel Volpendesto, who also is alleged to have taken part in robbing jewelry stores.

_Dino Vitalo, 40, a Cicero police officer since 1991, accused of searching law enforcement data bases and using the information to tip off criminals and searching for electronic surveillance equipment around a jewelry store operated by Polchan. Cicero officials on Thursday placed Vitalo on administrative leave.

Prosecutors are asking the court to force the defendants if convicted to forfeit $1.8 million _ a possible measure of the amount taken in the robberies.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Attorneys Disqualified from Organized Crime Bombing Case

A federal judge disqualified two lawyers Tuesday from representing a pair of defendants charged in a mob-related case with blowing up a coin-operated amusement company in suburban Berwyn.

Judge Ronald A. Guzman disqualified attorneys Alexander Salerno and Edmund Wanderling, saying they have "numerous and multifaceted" conflicts of interest.

Mark Polchan, 41, and Samuel Volpendesto, 84, are charged in the February 2003 bombing that ripped apart the Berwyn offices of C&S Coin Operated Amusements.

Prosecutors say the blast was a message from the mob to the company to quit horning in on its $13 million monopoly on gambling in Chicago's western suburbs.

The two men were arrested July 30 when federal agents fanned out across northern Illinois, raiding offices and hangouts of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. Polchan is a member of the Outlaws. The two have pleaded not guilty.

A call to Salerno and Wanderling at their offices late Tuesday was not immediately returned. A message was left with their answering service.

Salerno showed up at the home of an unnamed mob member who could become a defendant in the case when federal agents searched it on July 30, Guzman said. Wanderling apparently called Salerno and urged him to go to the home, he said.

Salerno also represented a key witness in the case and Wanderling had represented that witness's son, the judge said. He said Salerno previously served as an attorney for Volpendesto, who is now represented by Wanderling.

"These circumstances make it extremely difficult for the court even to admonish adequately Volpendesto or Polchan as to the many different ways that this prior relationship could result in prejudice to either during the course of these proceedings," Guzman said in a 15-page written opinion.

"Under these circumstances it is extremely difficult for the court to satisfy itself that either Volpendesto or Polchan understand fully the consequences of waiving their Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel," he said.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Kyle Knight, Explosives Supplier of Mob Pipe Bombings, Pleads Guilty

The man who supplied explosives in a mob- ordered pipe bombing of a Berwyn business pleaded guilty today and has agreed to testify against others in the case.

Kyle Knight of Merrillville, Indiana admitted transporting two bags of explosive powder to 84 year old Samuel Volpendesto, reputed to be a mob associate. Volpendesto, of Oak Brook and 41 year old Mark Polchan have been charged with the 2003 bombing of C&S Coin Operated Amusements, 6508 W. 16th St. in Berwyn, which leased vending and video machines and was targeted by the Chicago Outfit because it competed with the mob's $13 million illegal gambling operation. Polchan, also described by authorities as a mob associate and a member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, and Volpendesto were charged last month with the 2003 bombing.

According to his indictment, Volpendesto talked on undercover tape about the bombings and connected an unnamed individual referred to only as the "Large Guy." The government refers to that man as Outfit Member A, who worked for Outfit boss Johnny "Apes" Monteleone.

In a report last month the ABC7 ITeam identified Outfit member A as Mike Sarno, formerly known as "Fat Boy." The Westchester home of the convicted gangster was raided by the FBI in connection with the bombing. Sarno, now known in mob circles as "the large guy," has not been charged in the case. He told the I-Team this summer that he would have nothing to say about the legal matter.

The Iteam report, Double-O Connection, focused on a criminal relationship between the Outfit and the Outlaws biker gang.

In court today, Knight also pleaded guilty to numerous robberies. He has agreed to cooperate with authorities in return for a sentence of 15 years in prison.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Details Emerge of the Chicago Outfit Connection to the Outlaws Motorcyle Club

Just as the mob reflects only a sliver of Italian America, federal authorities say hardened criminals make up only a small portion of the Outlaws motorcycle club, an element known in biker circles as the "one percent." But it is those Outlaws and their associates in the Outfit that authorities say have built a "Double O Alliance."

Prosecutors alleged that in 2003, the Double O Alliance bombed a videogame company in west suburban Berwyn.

C&S Coin Operated Amusements had been cutting in on the mob's illegal video poker racket, according to federal agents who say the bombing was a message from the mob.

Last week, the feds raided several Outlaw clubhouses in metro Chicago, seizing numerous weapons including a live grenade, police badges, a bulletproof vest and a stun gun. And they made two arrests. One man was 41-year-old Chicago Outlaw Mike Polchan, whose arm tattoo stands for "God forgives, Outlaws don't." The other was 84-year-old Samuel Volpendesto from Oak Brook. According to prosecutors, Volpendesto ran Outfit strip clubs and a call girl business.

According to federal charges, both men carried out the 2003 bombing of C&S Amusements. On a secretly recorded FBI tape played in court Wednesday, prosecutors say Volpendesto was heard describing the bomb had one long wick and a back up as well.

"You light both of them. In the event one don't work, you got at least a chance the other one will work," the recording says.

Volpendesto's family and his lawyer didn't want to speak publicly Wednesday, and Polchan's attorney declined an interview.

Prosecutors say a suburban Outfit member nicknamed "The Large Guy" ordered the Outlaws to bomb C&S. That would be the Chicago mobster - according to federal sources - Mike Sarno, the hoodlum who used to be known as "fat boy" before going to prison for mob crimes. Now out and all grown up at age 50, Sarno lives in the suburbs with a wife and kids. He is known as "The Large Guy."

When FBI and ATF agents raided Sarno's home last week, they seized a large quantity of cash, but he was not arrested. "No comment means no comment," Sarno said in response to questions.

The Outfit-Outlaw search warrants, executed at the same time last week, were no coincidence "It's been an ongoing effort from, perhaps, the beginning, for both the Outfit and the motorcycle gangs," said James Wagner, Chicago Crime Commission.

Their roots are in the same era. The Outfit grew from Al Capone's violent mob in the 1930s, just as the Outlaws motorcycle club was born in west suburban McCook in 1935.

The Outlaws' Chicago South Side club headquarters, at the corner of 25th and Rockwell, is non-descript. The front door on the corner though is solid steel. And there is a small bulletproof window. And if that wouldn't be enough to stop an attack, there is a sliding steel plate that can be drawn in front of the main door with its own bulletproof glass right in the middle.

The FBI says there are more than 250 Outlaw chapters worldwide and 38 affiliated gangs in metro Chicago. "You are going to have a small percentage who have a willingness to do other things than just ride a bike, and the Outfit will use that," Wagner said.

In the Berwyn bombing case, that 84-year-old defendant wants out on bond. He says he's suffering from cancer, heart disease, bad hearing, two artificial knees, poor blood flow, high cholesterol, carotid artery problems, herniated disc, sleep apnea and is on oxygen. Prosecutors want him behind bars and say he's "a career criminal who has not been slowed by Father Time."

Watch the Video Report from Investigator Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Feds Claim Outlaw Biker Ordered by Chicago Outfit to Blow Up Video Gambling Operation

The Chicago Outfit ordered an Outlaw biker to blow up a Berwyn gambling operation because it competed with the mob’s own $13 million video gambling machine business, prosecutors charge in a filing this afternoon.

Mark Polchan, 41, and Samuel Volpendesto, 84, were arrested last week in connection with the 2003 bombing.

No one was injured in the Feb. 25, 2003, explosion, but the device blew out several windows and destroyed the ceiling and wood frame above the doorway of C & S Coin Operated Amusements, 6508 W. 16th St. The business leased coin-operated vending and video machines.

In a filing that seeks to keep the two behind bars pending trial, the feds revealed a series of recordings that allegedly captured Volpendesto on tape talking about the 2003 bombing that took out part of a building. The filing also alleges an extensive and wide-ranging criminal history on the part of Polchan, purportedly a high ranking member of the lawless Outlaws biker gang, from involvement with the mob, to coercing a witness to recant his story in a murder case.

“Disturbingly, the investigation has revealed that Polchan used his connections not only (with) the Outlaws and the Outfit, but also with various corrupt police officers, to advance his and his associates’ criminal objectives,” prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors say despite his age, Volpendesto is a risk of flight and a danger to the community. They describe him as knowledgeable about bomb-making and say he admitted on recordings he took part in previous bombings. In 1990, Volpendesto was charged after beating a suspected stool pigeon at a Cicero strip club. In 2006, he was arrested for assaulting his wife,” according to the filing.

“And a mere five years ago, (Volpendesto) set off a bomb that could have very easily killed or maimed innocent individuals,” prosecutors wrote. In a series of recorded conversations with a cooperating individual, Volpendesto was captured saying: “we blew part of that away.”

If convicted of the three counts against them, the two would face a sentence of 35 years to life in prison.

Thanks to Natasha Korecki

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Are the Chicago Outfit and the Outlaws Motorcycle Club Connected to a Pipe Bombing?

The west suburban home of a reputed mobster was among the locations raided by federal agents investigating a 2003 pipe-bombing outside a Berwyn video and vending machine business.

Authorities confirmed searching a home in the 3000 block of Kensington Avenue in Westchester that is registered to Michael Sarno, 50, who was convicted in the early 1990s of being part of a crime family led by mobster Ernest Rocco Infelice. Sources said Sarno, who was released from federal prison in 1999, was the target of the search and that a large amount of cash was recovered.

Sarno has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the bombing. He could not be reached Thursday for comment, and his lawyer declined to comment.

On Thursday authorities unsealed an indictment against Samuel Volpendesto, 84, of Oak Brook and Mark Polchan, 41, of Justice, following a series of raids across the Chicago area Wednesday by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In addition to the search at Sarno's home, raids were conducted on Polchan's Cicero pawn shop, Goldberg Jewelers, and three clubhouses of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club in Chicago, Elgin and Kankakee.

During an initial appearance Thursday in federal court, Volpendesto was all smiles. "Looks like I'm having fun, huh?" he said as he held up his handcuffs for reporters.

Both Volpendesto and Polchan were charged in connection with a nighttime explosion outside C&S Coin Operated Amusements in Berwyn. No one was injured, but the blast blew out windows and caused extensive interior damage.

A lawyer for Volpendesto and Polchan denied either has connections to the Chicago Outfit or the Outlaws. "Sam couldn't get his leg over a motorcycle," attorney Alexander Salerno said of Volpendesto, who he said has bladder cancer and needs to be on oxygen.

Volpendesto was charged in 1990 in the baseball-bat beating of a government witness who was cooperating against Infelice. Salerno said the charge was later dismissed.

The FBI SWAT team on Thursday brought in its military-style armored vehicle to pop off heavily fortified steel doors at the Outlaw's North Side chapter in the 3700 block of West Division Street. Agents later used a torch to remove a padlock from a door. The assault vehicle's presence in the Humboldt Park neighborhood brought curious onlookers with their cameras to the scene.

Kyle Knight of Merrillville was charged last year with supplying materials for the Berwyn pipe-bomb as well as conspiring to rob a series of jewelry stores. Court records show he is scheduled to plead guilty later this month. Prosecutors have said Knight and at least five other undisclosed individuals robbed the jewelry stories of a combined $1.27 million and shot a New York salesman during one holdup.

Volpendesto and Polchan pleaded not guilty Thursday in the bombing case and were ordered held by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox until a detention hearing next week. Neither was charged in the jewelry heists.

According to court records, Polchan has a record of arrests for felony aggravated battery and burglary charges as well as numerous misdemeanor charges from the 1980s and 1990s.

Last year, a patron at a downtown nightclub where Polchan worked as a bouncer sued Polchan after an altercation at the club. Polchan ordered the patron, Adam Cavitch, to leave the club because the flip-flops he wore on the dance floor violated the club's dress code, said Cavitch's lawyer, Kevin McNamara.

As Polchan was escorting Cavitch from the club, the two exchanged words. Polchan allegedly punched Cavitch, shattering his cheek bone, McNamara said. Attorney Al Ambutas, who represents Polchan in the lawsuit, said his client denies the allegations.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the scope of the investigation that snared Polchan and Volpendesto. Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, who is assigned to the organized crime section, told the judge he expects to play audio and video tapes from the investigation in court at the detention hearing Wednesday.

Both face up to life in prison if convicted, authorities said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen and Todd Lighty

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