The Chicago Syndicate: Shark
Showing posts with label Shark. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shark. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Who is the Boss of the Chicago Outfit in 2018?

Now that John "No Nose" DiFronzo is no longer running the Chicago Outfit, who will fill the void left by his death is an open question.

As the ABC7 I-Team first reported, DiFronzo died from complications of Alzheimer's. He was 89.

"This is obviously an organization that promotes from within" said Chicago mob expert John Binder. "They don't take ads in the Wall Street Journal announcing a job search."

Although illicit businesses such as the Outfit don't have open meetings or put out annual reports, there are internal rules and succession plans in place to deal with the death of the boss-whether it occurs naturally or at the end of a gun barrel as was the case with Sam "Momo" Giancana in 1975.

DiFronzo's declining health the past few years may have allowed the mob to restructure its upper crust in anticipation of his death. The top two spots in the Outfit are now thought to be occupied by one infamous gangland name and one less recognized.

Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis is the best known, un-incarcerated Chicago mob figure today-and considered "consigliere" to the Outfit.

DeLaurentis, 79, was released from federal prison in 2006 after serving a long sentence for racketeering, extortion and tax fraud. The north suburban resident is notorious for using the phrase "trunk music." That is the gurgling sound made by a decomposing corpse in a car trunk.

These days ex-con DeLaurentis claims he has gone clean--literally.

"I'm in the carpet cleaning business," DeLaurentis told the I-Team. He laughed off those who said he was the boss or involved in mob rackets at all and said the FBI should know that because the bureau monitors his activities.

DeLaurentis has long been a mob-denier. "The Outfit is like a group that comes in here to paint the walls" he told investigative reporter Chuck Goudie during a 1993 interview. "It's the painting outfit."

During that television interview conducted at the federal lock-up in Chicago, DeLaurentis said he was "a bricklayer by trade" and a part-time gambler. "We gamble" he said "but as far as Mafia, I don't know what that is."

GOUDIE: "So you contend that if there is a Chicago Outfit it's an outfit of gamblers?"
DELAURENTIS: "Yea. Right. An outfit of guys who gamble. If they were any other kind of businessmen they'd be in the chamber of commerce."

The new head of the FBI in Chicago disagrees with statement's that there is no mob-or that it is washed up.

"Are they out there leaving people dead in the streets?" asks FBI special agent in charge Jeffrey Sallet. "No. But just because people aren't killing somebody doesn't mean that they don't represent a threat" Sallet said. "Mob guys or Outfit guys-whatever you want to call them-are resilient. Where there is an opportunity to make money, they will engage. The reason they don't kill people the same way they did 25 years ago is because it's bad for business."

The second in command of the Chicago Outfit, according to some mobwatchers, is convicted enforcer Albert "Albie the Falcon" Vena, 69. The squat Vena did beat a murder charge in 1992 after the killing of a syndicate-connected drug dealer. He is thought to oversee day-to-day operations of the Outfit.

Vena is a protégé of notorious West Side mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, who is imprisoned for life following conviction in the 2007 Family Secrets mob murder case.

Regardless of what some see as an evolving line-up atop the Chicago mob, defense attorney Joe Lopez, who has represented numerous top hoodlums, says the Outfit is a thing of the past.

"I don't think anybody is ruling the roost. I think the roost was closed" Lopez told the I-Team.

He disputes that DeLaurentis has succeeded John DiFronzo. "He's old too" said Lopez, who proudly carries his own nickname "The Shark." Lopez said that Chicago mob leaders "became obsolete" and were put out of business by the "digital revolution has changed the entire world." Other mob experts differ.

"The outfit is a criminal enterprise, it's still functioning" said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit" book. Binder maintains that the mob has a working relationship with Chicago street gangs. He says the Outfit is "involved in the wholesaling and to some extent importation" of cocaine and heroin that gangs sell on city streets. "Just because it's not the Outfit guys standing on the West Side or South Side selling it doesn't mean they aren't actively involved in making a lot of money off of narcotics themselves."

Thanks to Chuck Goudie, Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

John DiFronzo, Leader of The Chicago Outfit, is Dead

The leader of the Outfit for more than a decade, notorious for his nickname and his cagey demeanor, died on Sunday-the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

John "No Nose" DiFronzo was 89 years old. He had Alzheimer's disease, according to noted Chicago attorney Joe "the Shark" Lopez who counts mob leaders as clients. "I knew that he was extremely ill and I thought that the ending was going to come and it finally did" Lopez told the I-Team during an interview on Tuesday.

DiFronzo was awarded the mob moniker "No Nose" early in his career when part of his schnoz was sliced off as he jumped through the plate glass window of a Michigan Ave. clothing store window to escape after a burglary. That incident in 1949 happened in the middle of a gun battle with police and left DiFronzo with a mangled snout.

Eventually plastic surgery restored the mobster's nose, but the nickname stuck. Sometimes he was also called "Johnny Bananas" by associates.

"John DiFronzo was at the top during a much different era than other times in history" said Chicago mob expert John Binder. "I mean they were still killing quite a few guys pre-years during the 1960's. Starting in the 1990's that really slows down and by the late 1990's there's very few certifiable or agreed-on outfit hits" said Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit."

DiFronzo had been a longtime resident of River Grove. He would meet weekly with Outfit underlings at a local restaurant near the apartment he shared with his wife.

The I-Team put his regular midday meetings under surveillance in 2009 and conducted a rare interview with the mob boss as he was leaving one of the luncheons. "Lunch with No Nose" as it was coined, was a rare glimpse into Outfit operations and perhaps the last time DiFronzo was seen on television.

The crime syndicate boss, who began as an enforcer, did serve prison sentences for burglary in 1950 and in 1993 for racketeering-and was a suspect in about three dozen Outfit crimes and some murder cases. But he was convicted only a few times and managed to escape the legal fate of many of his mob colleagues.

As the upper echelon of the Chicago Outfit went to prison for life in the 2007 Operation: Family Secrets case, DiFronzo was always thought to have been atop the list of those who would fall in the second round of federal indictments.

"I think about (mob hitman) Nick Calabrese saying that DiFronzo was there when they killed the Spilotro brothers" recalled Lopez. Anthony "Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael Spilotro were murdered by Outfit hitmen according to federal investigators and buried in an Indiana cornfield. The 1986 double murder was the subject of a Hollywood movie and has never been officially solved.

There never was a Family Secrets II and DiFronzo managed to hold the reins of power into his 80's.

After Lunch with No Nose, the octogenarian Outfit boss told the I-Team that he was "not concerned at all" about being prosecuted. As it turned out, he was correct. He met the fate of old age and a debilitating disease on Sunday morning, passing away less violently then some of those who crossed paths with the Outfit over the years.

"I would say John DiFronzo was no Tony Accardo" said Binder, referring to Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo the long-time Chicago consiglieri who died in 1992. "Now of course they (Outfit bosses) are working during different time periods. It's one thing to be leading an organization when its growing and it's at its peak. It's another thing to be leading an organization when it is clearly declining" Binder said.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Michael DiFoggio, Key Government Informant, Committs Suicide

He was in tax trouble with the law.

His marriage was on the rocks.

His former pals in his mob-connected neighborhood had labeled him a “rat” for cooperating with the feds. And Tuesday night, it seems, it all got to be too much for Michael DiFoggio.

The 58-year-old — a key government witness who helped convict former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and former Ald. Ambrosio Medrano of corruption — shot himself in the mouth in the office of his Bridgeport plumbing business, authorities said.

Though DiFoggio’s passing immediately prompted speculation, police ruled out foul play, and his death was Wednesday ruled a suicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

His life had been falling apart for years.

Even as DiFoggio remarried in 2010, his tax problems were leading him to become an undercover FBI informant. Revealed by the Sun-Times three months before he pleaded guilty to tax evasion in October 2012, his cooperation meant he was ostracized in his tight-knit neighborhood, sources say.

Though he’d yet to be sentenced, his critical help for the feds meant he had a good chance of avoiding prison.That made him unwelcome at the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, a hangout for businessmen and mobsters that his father co-founded, along with mob boss Angelo “The Hook” LaPietra. DiFoggio was told months ago that his membership wouldn’t be renewed.

At home, too, things were going badly. He’d been trying to sell his luxury house with indoor pool for $1.5 million, without luck. And less than two weeks ago, his wife, Fran Prado, filed for divorce.

His sad, final days were described in court papers she used on Monday to win an order of protection that banned DiFoggio from the family home on the 3700 block of South Normal.

According to Prado, DiFoggio recently canceled her credit card and took back her wedding ring, then — during an ugly argument that saw police called to their home Saturday night — shoved and grabbed her.

DiFoggio falsely told the cops that his wife had held “a butcher knife to his throat” and “had put poison in his ice cream,” Prado wrote, adding, “I fear that Michael will physically grab me again ...”

DiFoggio’s demise at 3126 S. Shields came after he’d had a phone conversation with his wife, sources said. It prompted fresh rumors about his cooperation with the feds and whether more indictments are expected.

“According to my clients on the street, there was a Second Act coming,” said prominent defense attorney Joseph “The Shark” Lopez, who has represented many organized crime figures.“There was actually a feeling that something else was about to happen — whether it’s true or not, who knows?”

Spokesmen for the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office both declined to comment.But there’s little doubt DiFoggio proved himself invaluable in his secret recordings of Medrano and Moreno.

Posing as a crooked developer willing to pay bribes to get a garbage transfer station located in Cicero, he, in December 2010, passed $5,000 to Moreno to grease the deal. Just months before, Moreno had been appointed to a Cicero business assistance committee by the town’s president, Larry Dominick.

At one point, Moreno told DiFoggio: “I don’t want to be a hog, I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered, pigs get fat.”

DiFoggio also helped snare Medrano in a health-care contracting sting last year.

Medrano’s lawyer, Gal Pissetzky, said that DiFoggio’s death left Medrano “shocked and saddened.”

Whatever DiFoggio did, “We’re all human beings,” Pissetzky said.

Thanks to Michael Sneed and Kim Janssen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Attorney Joseph R. Lopez, "The Shark", Brings Trial Winning Streak to Drew Peterson Case & Closing Argument

The criminal defense attorney who will deliver the closing argument when Drew Peterson goes on trial is on a roll, having won all three of his most his most recent jury trials, including two where his clients were charged with murder.

Attorney Joseph R. Lopez is best known for representing members of the Chicago Outfit. When Lopez was growing up in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood, he was given the nickname “the Shark.”

Lead Peterson defense attorney Joel Brodsky tapped Lopez to join the defense team because of his skills and success at delivering closing arguments.

“I chose Joe because he is good at what he does,” says Brodsky. “It wasn’t a stroke of genius. It is about assembling a winning team and Joe’s track record reinforces to me that I made the right decision in giving him the closing argument.”

Two of Lopez’s recent cases were murder trials. The third involved accusations of armed robbery and extortion. Lopez delivered closing arguments in all three cases and all three defendants were found not guilty.

The closing argument is the final argument made by an attorney during a trial. It represents a summation of the evidence. Closing arguments are the last chance to talk to the jury and impact their decisions. And the closing argument is considered within the legal community to be an art form of sorts.

“The closing argument is one of the most important parts of a trial, as the entire trial leads up to the summation. The argument is especially significant if the outcome of the trial is too close to predict,” according to the website caught.net. “At that point, all that matters is the attorney’s last minute attempt to persuade the jury to find in favor of his or her client.”

Peterson is charged with murder in the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Her death originally was ruled an accidental drowning but authorities later determined it to be a homicide that was staged to look like an accident. Peterson vehemently denies any connection to Savio’s death.

Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacey, disappeared several years ago and though a suspect, he has not been charged in connection with that case.

Last week an appellate court ruled that hearsay evidence would be allowed to be presented at trial, which means two of Peterson’ ex-wives will likely “testify” during the trial even though one is dead and the other is missing. 

Peterson has been in jail since May 2009 since police arrested and charged him.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez Back on Mob Case

A new order came out yesterday and Attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez is not permanently banned for future appointments. This was after a review of a motion that Lopez and filed on March 15th and includes a letter from Frank Calabrese Sr. that was written to the judge.

Lopez will continue to still represent Calabrese on the SAMS issue.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez Responds to Media Reports on 15th Ave Adult Books in Melrose Park

Our most recent "Shark Tale" addresses the allegations brought against an adult bookstore in Melrose Park that has been accused of running a sex party room. Their attorney, Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, picks it up from here.

The press never seems to go away for some of my clients. Recently, FOX Chicago claimed to have went undercover in Robert Urbinati's wife's bookstore. Bobby was a codefendant of Tony Centracchio an alleged outfit boss who died before the feds could send him away for a few decades.

Bobby did his time like a man unlike Frank Calabrese Jr."the balless wonder" and his chicken man Uncle, Nick "The Slayer" Calabrese.

The bookstore is located in an industrial area of Melrose Park. There is a party room in the back which hosts can rent out for parties. Like any other party the guests can enjoy themselves and in this case they were swingers and freaks of all types. The Bookstore does not sell liquor, drugs or provide sex partners. These parties are be invitation only and not open the general public. The patrons pay an admission fee and receive a red band to enter. Once inside they do what people have been doing since "Adam and Eve" or "Eve and Eve" or "Adam and Adam". The party room remains under the control of the host and the owner does not provide anything other than the space to play. There is nothing illegal about this type of party.

The media hit on it because its in Melrose Park and there is an Italian name. Otherwise, its not a story if some other guy, like a Sam Tong, a Herb Gold, a Bob Perez, or a Mike Anderson, were the owners. Its news because of a few vowels. The media could not link it to "The Outfit" because there is not a link. This is America and its citizens have a constitutional right to assemble and party. They are exhibitionists who are protected by the constitution.

The feed back on the story has been positive. Its yesterday's news. The media reported a non-story because the bottom line was that nothing was illegal. I hope the free advertising helps the store in this troubled economy.

Thanks to Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) Extended Against Frank Calabrese

"When Enough is Enough"

I have been informed that the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois has requested that the Attorney General of the United States extend the SAMS (special administrative measures) to Frank Calabrese for an additional year. Frank has been kept in almost complete isolation from his family and friends since November of 2008. He is allowed very limited contact with the outside world. He cannot talk to any prisoners or staff. The SAMS program is supposed to be reserved for terrorists both Foreign and Domestic. Matt Hale the white supremacist has been under SAMS along with Mid-Eastern Terrorists. This is sad news for Frank and his family. Otherwise it is my understanding that he is a model prisoner.

Unfortunately we do not have access to the request to determine why Frank should be subject to SAMS but many speculate it is the way he moved his lips during closing argument. Two anonymous jurors who apparently are expert lip readers claimed that they saw Frank move his lips in such a manner that they flapped in the wind "you are a fucking dead man". This was reported 2 weeks after the trial ended. There may be other reasons why Frank is subject to SAMS but its not because Frank Jr wants to visit his father. Frank Jr. the "gutless wonder" inflicted pain on a lot of families for his own agenda mostly to become famous since he was a nobody in a world full of somebodies. Now he can go down in the history books as the most famous traitor in Chicago without a red dress! Frank no doubt will want to challenge the SAMS but its probably a losing battle. Stay tuned for more as this story develops.

Thanks to Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Will Family Secrets Mob Attorney, "The Shark" Represent Drew Peterson?

Drew Peterson might want to give Joseph R. Lopez a call.

Lopez, a high-profile attorney, managed to hang a jury in his defense of Peterson at a Thursday night mock murder trial at Chicago-Kent College of Law. WGN Radio sponsored the event and will broadcast it June 14 and 21.

The jury only had a half hour to come up with a unanimous verdict and failed to do so. When asked how they voted, the panel revealed it split 6-6.

The attorneys involved in the mock trial based their cases on information reported through the press, as they do not have access to the state's evidence.

Peterson was unavailable for the mock trial. To get up to Chicago, he would have needed to come up with $20 million bail to get out of the Will County jail, where he is awaiting a real trial for the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, who was found drowned in a dry bathtub in March 2004.

Mock prosecutor Karen Conti, an attorney and co-host of WGN Radio's "Legally Speaking," pointed out the questionable death scene that state police found completely unsuspicious until Peterson's next wife, Stacy Peterson, vanished in October 2007.

"None of this makes sense," Conti said. "People don't die this way."

Peterson and Savio were in the midst of a contentious divorce when she turned up dead. She was only weeks away from taking a substantial amount of his assets in divorce court.

"Murders don't make sense," Conti said. "Don't try to make sense of this one."

Lopez, who apparently is nicknamed "the Shark" and is famous for representing alleged mob hit men and drug cartels, argued the murder makes no sense because it is not a murder at all.

"It's obvious that she slipped and fell in the tub," Lopez said.

That's exactly what the state police thought, at least until three and a half years later, when Stacy vanished and mounting public pressure prompted them to re-examine Savio's death.

The state police also are probing Stacy's disappearance. They consider her a "potential homicide" victim and have named Peterson their sole suspect.

While Stacy's case would have to be a mock trial for another day, Conti focused on a conversation the young woman supposedly had with her pastor, the Rev. Neil Schori, only weeks before she disappeared. In the actual trial, prosecutors will likely attempt to get these statements entered through recently passed hearsay legislation dubbed "Drew's Law."

"Drew said, 'I killed Kathleen. I killed Kathleen and made it look like an accident. I hit her in the back of the head and put her in the bathtub,'" Conti claimed Schori said. "Why would he lie?" Conti said. "He doesn't have a dog in this fight."

Lopez was dismissive of Schori's supposed testimony. "Here's another guy who jumped on the bandwagon and claimed Stacy Peterson made those statements," Lopez said, adding, "He lied to you."

He also questioned why Schori, upon supposedly hearing such a shocking revelation, took no action beyond telling Stacy to "go home and pray about it."

The mock trial actually consisted of nothing more than closing arguments — a small section of a real trial.

Lopez said during his argument that he would have called no witnesses during the testimony phase of the trial because "the state failed to prove its case."

Lopez did concede that "everybody hates Drew. There's no question about it." But he then went on to speak to all of his mock client's virtues.

Peterson, for instance, joined the Army. "He didn't have to do that," Lopez said. "He could have been a draft dodger. He could have gone to Canada and smoked pot."

And from the Army, Peterson went on to become a Bolingbrook police officer. "That's not something to sneeze at either," Lopez said. But it was while he was supposed to be protecting and serving that Peterson was storing away the knowledge that would help him plan the murder of his wife, Conti said.

"He was a student of crime," she said. "He was a student of crime scenes. Is it a surprise he didn't leave a trace? I'm not surprised by it."

Lopez maintained Peterson was the victim of a witch hunt conducted by authorities facing intense media scrutiny. And Peterson's public persona didn't help him any either. "People hate him because he likes young girls," Lopez said. "That doesn't make him a killer. They haven't even shown any evidence there was a homicide."

Peterson's real attorney, Joel Brodsky, was in the audience watching the mock trial, possibly hoping to glean ideas for how to defend his client after losing his first two challenges to the state — objecting to a change off judge and attempting to get Peterson's bond reduced.

Despite the spectacle of the mock trial, the gravity of the case was not lost on the participants. In fact, during the proceedings, Conti stressed the reality of Savio's death.

"This is not a book," she said. "It is not a movie. It's a real-life murder with someone executed in the prime of her life."

Thanks to Joe Hosey

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Drew Peterson Mock Trial to Feature Family Secrets Mob Lawyer Joseph Lopez

WGN Radio's Greg Adamski and Karen Conti will host a mock trial of the closing arguments in the murder prosecution of Drew Peterson for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, on Thursday, May 28.

Chicago attorneys Greg Adamski and Karen Conti, hosts of WGN Radio's Legally Speaking, will host a mock trial of the closing arguments in the murder prosecution of Drew Peterson for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, on Thursday, May 28 from 6-8pm at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. The event will be open to the public and taped for broadcast on WGN Radio on Sunday, June 14 and Sunday, June 21.

"The People v. Drew Peterson" will feature Greg Adamski as moderator, Karen Conti as prosecutor, and Family Secrets Mob Trial lawyer Joseph R. Lopez as Drew Peterson's defense attorney. Retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Neville will preside and a professional jury consultant will be present to quickly screen and select jurors who will be taken from the audience. The jury will be given a short period of time to deliberate and a verdict will be rendered before the night is over. The event is intended as an educational exposition, based solely on the facts that have been publicly reported.

The event will be taped and broadcast on WGN Radio on Sunday, June 14 and Sunday, June 21, prior to the Chicago Cubs broadcasts - the exact start times will be announced closer to air dates.

Drew Peterson was indicted by a Will County grand jury on two counts of murder in connection with Savio's death. Defense attorney Joel Brodsky entered a not guilty plea on Peterson's behalf on May 18. Peterson, a former Bolingbrook police sergeant, has maintained his innocence in the case.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shark Tales Return with an Update on the Family Secrets Mob Case, the Mitch Mars Golf Outing & a Job Offer for US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

How is everyone out there? I have not written lately, with the birth of my son Rocco Joseph and my wife in law school, it's difficult to provide updates for The Chicago Syndicate.

First, I was featured in Gangland on The History channel last week in the Satan's Disciples episode. I represent many SDs who are from my hood on Taylor Street USA. I was named again in Who is Who in America by Marquis for 2008, the second time that I received this distinguished award.

Family Secrets is still alive. The post trial motions were denied and now its sentencing time. Frank (Calabrese Sr.) is set for December 11 2008 at 2pm. There is a lot of work to do on his sentencing and hopefully the world will learn the truth about the dirty rat son Frank Jr. and his friend at the press who helped spin the bullshit tale of he and his father.

Chicago Outfit Last SupperOn another somber note, the Mitch Mars golf outing was held. I played with two agents who testified in the case, one who found the infamous last supper photo which I said that the enterprise died with the last clam. The other agent was on the Sam Carlisi case when I went to trial with "The Hatchet". I drove the ball well and my short game was on at times.

Afterward, a lot of US Attorneys and media personalities arrived, as well as the Grand Pupa himself, Patrick Fitzgerald. I asked him if he would like a job after Obama wins! Just kidding folks.

I was one of three defense lawyers golfing, but others showed up for the dinner. I missed dinner as I was in clubhouse taking a shower and drinking at the bar. I needed a break from all those agents! The outing was fun and Marsha Mclellan had to give me a bag of balls! After dinner, I returned to be bothered by the media with questions about Frank and others. I remained mum much to the chagrin of others. I wanted to talk about the White Sox not law and clients.

Judging from the turnout, it's obvious that Mitch had a lot of fans. Like I have written before, he was ok with me, but he had his enemies. It was the second golf outing of the year I attended which honored a dead attorney. It was a bit eerie. There was lot of rumor about an upcoming indictment which is neither confirmed or denied, but will probably happen. The feds always have a trick up their sleeve. So, I eventually left and returned home in an elevated state.

The books are being written right now, at least 2 that I know of and maybe one more. It will be interesting to see the final copies.

Stay tuned for more developments regarding sentencing and the double jeopardy appeal. Frank still has a lot of fight in him and a chance to reverse this mess. We are still trying to figure out how you can call 3 eyewitnesses to a murder who described the scene and testified it was not Frank that killed Ortiz and Morowski. None of the witnesses knew who frank was at the time, but described the car and shooter to a degree which was not Frank.

Stay tuned!

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Four Chicago Defense Lawyers in A League of Their Own

In a city infamous for crime and corruption, the top criminal defense lawyers are as colorful and cunning as their clients.

They are routinely faced with insurmountable government evidence – wiretaps, surveillance tapes, fingerprints and informants. And they also claim the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are weighted in favor of the government.

On top of this, their cold-blooded clients can make a lawyer's life hell – especially when they lose.

"I think it's very difficult to do what they do," said Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, who has covered many corruption and mob trials in Chicago. "Their clients demand perfection. They're the kind of clients you don't want to anger."

This is a surprisingly small club, with only about 15 lawyers doing criminal defense work in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on a regular basis.

Lawyers USA interviewed four prominent Chicago criminal defense lawyers: Joseph "The Shark" Lopez; Rick Halprin, Edward Genson and Steven R. Hunter. All have recently handled high-profile federal trials.

Whether grilling government witnesses on the stand or trying to convince jurors to spare cold-blooded killers, these lawyers are in a legal league of their own.

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Lopez is the only one of the four who actually looks the part of a "wise-guy" lawyer.

Joseph 'The Shark' Lopez has been called a mob layer and a gang lawyer, but he could care less.Wearing a black suit, black shirt, a black tie with bright slashes of color and a diamond ring with enough bling to make a rapper blush, Lopez, 52, could care less if people call him a "mob lawyer."

"I've been called a mob lawyer, gang lawyer. I've represented a lot of mobsters," he said.

He's also been called "Shark" since he was a youth; it's on his license plate and his e-mail address.

Lopez, who represented Frank Calabrese Sr., in last year's "Family Secrets" trial in Chicago, is not exactly media shy. He wrote his own blog (The Chicago Syndicate) about the trial while it was under way – until the judge ordered him to shut it down.

"He's promoted himself in every way possible," said fellow criminal lawyer Halprin, who represented another defendant in the Family Secrets trial. "That blog was outrageous."

Lopez is unrepentant: "The government was mad because I was criticizing them and their witnesses."

He plans to re-launch his blog this summer during the trial of client Gary Kimmel, a Chicago dentist charged with laundering money for a nationwide prostitution ring.

A native Chicagoan of Mexican/Italian heritage, Lopez graduated from the University of Illinois law school. He planned to specialize in divorce law, but was asked to help out in a drug case. "My friends were Colombian/Mexican drug [defendants]," he said. "They sent me over there because I was squeaky clean."

A large swordfish hangs on the wall of his cluttered office. "I tell my clients, 'See how that fish's mouth is open? That's how it got caught,'" he said, laughing loudly.

Sketches on the wall depict Lopez in several of his biggest cases. He represented Rev. Jesse Jackson's brother, Noah, in a money laundering case; and one of the teenage defendants in the infamous Lenard Clark case. Clark, a young black teenager, was savagely beaten by a group of white teenagers in 1997 as he rode his bike home through a predominantly white neighborhood.

Lopez has a trial scheduled for the end of March involving Fernando King, the head of the Latin Kings gang in Chicago, on drug and weapons charges.

Lopez said he's always confident going into the courtroom. "Most lawyers are afraid they're gong to lose, so they talk their clients into pleading guilty," he said. "I always think I'm going to win. Even if there are 300 witnesses, I convince myself I'm going to win."

Rick Halprin

In stark contrast to Lopez, Halprin, 68, looks more like a securities lawyer than a criminal defense attorney. Dressed conservatively in a blue shirt with white collar, red checked tie, suit pants and vest, he said he is careful not to call attention to himself. "The most important thing is never lose your credibility with the jury," he said. "When the trial is about the lawyer, you're dead. When it's an endless cross examination that goes nowhere, you're dead. And when you dress flashy instead of conservative, you're dead."

Thomas A. Durkin, a veteran criminal defense lawyer and partner in Durkin & Roberts in Chicago, described Halprin as "absolutely one of the very best courtroom lawyers in Chicago."

"He's extremely persuasive with juries; he's very smooth," Durkin said. "He can be very low-key when the situation calls for it, and he can be aggressive when that's appropriate."

Halprin bristles at the term "mob lawyer," even though he defended Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 78, in the Family Secrets trial – the biggest mob trial in Chicago in years.

"I'm not a mob lawyer," he said. "I think it's absurd."

Lombardo, along with Calabrese and mob boss James Marcello, were convicted of a total of 10 murders.

Although Halprin and Lombardo had their "moments" of disagreement in the courtroom, Halprin said Lombardo didn't blame him for the verdict. "I know to the whole world he's a scary guy, but if you explain something to him enough times he gets it," Halprin said. "The trial is about the evidence. You've got to be a good cross-examiner, and I'm very good at it," said Halprin. "You [attack] the lifestyle of the main witness – but if you can't take out the corroborative evidence, in the end, jurors are collectively just too smart to be swayed by that."

According to columnist Kass, "It's difficult to represent the Chicago Outfit – especially when they insist, as Lombardo did, on putting themselves on the stand."

Rick Halprin's client, Joseph Lombardo could not resist a few cracks from the witness stand as 'Joey is JoeyWhile Lombardo "tried hard" to curb his wise-guy comments on the stand, Halprin said, he couldn't resist a few cracks that elicited laughter from the audience, and a rebuke from the judge.

"Joey is Joey," said Halprin. "There's no way you can get someone to change their contentious nature or stop making inappropriate jokes. He is a very funny guy, but there's a time and a place – and this was neither. But he tried hard."

Halprin, who described himself as a wild youth, never graduated from high school. He joined the Marines at 17, and eventually got enough hours of college credit so he could get into law school. He graduated from John Marshall Law School and has been practicing since 1970.

He learned the local legal ropes from Frank Oliver, a renowned Chicago criminal lawyer.

Sitting in his office a block and a half away from the federal courthouse, Halprin – who has a deep voice reminiscent of TV talk show host Larry King – said he has no plans to retire.

"I'm having too much fun. There's nothing like a federal courtroom. Federal trials are so challenging and so difficult to win," he said. "I'm going to die in the courtroom."

Edward Genson

At 66, Genson is the dean of Chicago's criminal lawyers. Just don't call him a "mob lawyer."

Genson detests the term so much that he stopped talking to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin after her description of Genson as a mob lawyer was picked up by Vanity Fair magazine.

"I was angry about it," he said. "At some point in my career I had a number of Italian politicians as clients. That was about 20 years ago, and it was never more than 10 percent of my practice."

In 43 years of practice, Genson has represented scores of well-known clients, including former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's aide Scott Fawell and lobbyist Larry Warner. Even young Hollywood star Shia LaBeouf called on Genson when he was arrested in Chicago last year for refusing to leave a Chicago drugstore. "A lovely young man," Genson said, noting that the charges against LaBeouf were dropped.

In a case that has dragged on for six years, Genson is currently defending rapper R. Kelly on charges of having sex with an underage girl. Kelly's trial will finally take place May 9, according to Genson, who quipped: "It has to take place sometime."

Genson was co-counsel in last year's trial of Canadian newspaper publisher Conrad Black, who was accused of mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

Although Genson was supposed to be second chair on the defense team, he wound up questioning 24 of the 28 witnesses and handling almost the entire closing argument.

On the day in early March that Black was scheduled to be sent to a federal prison in Florida on a six-year sentence, Genson was still critical of Canadian lead lawyer Eddie Greenspan's courtroom performance. "He was a very bright man and an extraordinarily good lawyer in Canada, but they can't work at this speed," he said.

The son of a Chicago bail bondsman, Genson remembers driving his father to police stations at night and sitting in courtrooms, listening to trial lawyers.

After graduating from Northwestern University Law School, he scrambled for clients, handling up to 100 trials a year. He still keeps a grueling pace, despite having suffered for years from dystonia, a neurological disorder that makes walking difficult, especially when he is tired or under stress.

Genson wears an arm sling while recuperating from recent shoulder surgery – the latest in a string of orthopedic surgeries related to his neurological condition. An electric wheelchair sits next to his desk in his office on the 14th floor of the 19th century Monadnock Building, across from the Federal Center.

Still, he has no thought of retiring. "Trial law is an all-encompassing kind of profession," he said. "It's your whole life when you're at trial. There's no such thing as sleeping with any regularity because you're always waking up with ideas. There's no such thing as weekends. When you occasionally go to a movie, you're thinking about what you should be doing the next day.

"A good trial lawyer just doesn't develop a whole lot of interests," he added. "So, what would I do if I retired?"

Despite his protestations, Genson has an obvious interest in art and antiques. The eclectic decorations in his office include: cowboy paintings by an art forger who testified as a government witness in one of his trials; a 19th Century desk he bought in London; a 16th Century Spanish credenza; and a portrait of Clarence Darrow, his idol.

Genson has a murder trial coming up in April, a money laundering trial set for June and a Medicaid fraud trial later this summer.

"I'll retire when they start laughing at me," he said. "So far, that hasn't happened."

Steven R. Hunter

Hunter, 45, knew from a young age he wanted to be a criminal lawyer. He remembers being inspired by the story of Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"Something about defending the underdog just appealed to me," Hunter said.

Originally from Grosse Isle, Mich., Hunter graduated from University of Michigan Law School in 1997 and headed for Chicago. "I knew I wanted to be in Chicago," Hunter said. "To me, Chicago is the greatest city in the world."

But without any connections, it wasn't easy. Hunter worked as an immigration lawyer for Catholic Charities, and then landed a job with the public defenders' office.

He spent eight and a half years defending child abusers, juveniles and street gang members. "I was dealing with people who were whipping their children with extension rods and coat hangers," he recalled.

Overloaded with cases and long hours, Hunter left in 1986 to start his own practice. He qualified for the federal trial bar and was appointed to the federal defenders' panel.

He recently defended Anthony Calabrese (no relation to Frank Calabrese), an alleged mob hit man who was convicted of armed robbery. He also represented Eural Black, a Chicago police officer convicted in January of robbing drug dealers while on duty.

Although many of his cases still come through the panel, Hunter is getting an increasing number of calls from private clients. "It's really a slow, grinding process where you start out small," said Hunter. "If you work hard enough for your clients, if you fight cases, as opposed to pleading everybody out, that snowballs, and eventually you wind up having a pretty good practice."

Thanks to Nora Tooher

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Shark Weighs in on Mobster Sentencing and Federal Guidelines

The Michael Marcello sentencing was held and he was sentenced to 102 months, which is within the guideline range of 87-108 months. Some may think this was too much and others may say not enough. The federal guidelines are a funny set of rules. There are these things called "grouping" where a judge can find different crimes can be grouped together and in effect cancel each other out and become equal in the equation. Sentencing guidelines also use tax losses to calculate the range. The more mula (money) the more time.

Guidelines can be tricky and even courts, prosecutors, probation officers, and defense lawyers can have different views on their application. The Supreme Court recently ruled judges can depart from the guidelines and impose sentences not in violation of a statutory minimum. This is a new direction in which courts can depart. We as lawyers (prosecutors and judges are lawyers) get used to one system and then another one is put in its place. As the guidelines fade away so do the sentences. We have more people in prison than any other country. Are lawyers losing that many cases?

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Shark Pays His Respects to Mitch Mars

2 weeks ago yesterday, I attended Mitch Mars' wake. It was a tragic event for the legal community. Mitch was a great guy. One time we played golf at an outing and I was the only one in the foursome who was not in law enforcement. We made jokes all day about the various sponsors of the golf holes. I proposed that "The Outfit" sponsor the hole-in-one and we all laughed. I was given beer coolers with federal law enforcement logos and I a passed them out to the boys for their boats on Lake Geneva. We had fun using those coolers on hot days and busting about Mitch and his band of untouchables.

Mitch was a great adversary who never went after the lawyers, only their clients. I have been under surveillance for years meeting with guys at restaurant's etc.... Mitch never cared because he knew it was part of the business and he knew that my clients would never tell me anything that could hurt them because that is how they are. Mitch loved rock music including Chicago favorites - Smashing Pumpkins. We talked about music and concerts all the time. I was sad to see Mitch go because he had been in the office when I started practicing law in 1984. I met him during the Pedote, Bambulas and Switek trial. It was 1985 and it was my first federal criminal trial. It was a planned robbery of over 1 million in gold that was thwarted because a informant was recruited to drive the getaway van. The robbery was going to be at the Maller's building in Chicago also known as the jewelers building. Anyway, Mitch came to see the trial and I did meet him. (Ed Pedote pleaded guilty to federal robbery, weapons and drug charges and sentenced to 5 years probation. Mike Swiatek and Daniel Bambulas were sent to prison on that case.)

Over the years we came to know each other. Like me he was a Chicago boy born into the concrete jungle, not a suburban boy. Mitch and I loved hot dogs and hot dog stands. We talked about Chicago hot dogs all the time. Mitch loved the small hot dog stands with the soggy buns and rolled tamales.

I have to say he will be missed, but not by my clients. This is a funny business because the lawyers can be friendly, but in the court room they can be ruthless to each other. The clients may not understand the relationship lawyers have with one another and that is understandable. We, as lawyers, do not take it personal, but some clients do. The prosecutor's job is to lock up criminals and my job is to keep them out. Mitch locked up a lot of guys over the years. Some hate him, while others despise him, yet some say he was fair. Good bye Mitch, we will all miss you!

- Joe "The Shark" Lopez

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The ABA Journal, Family Secrets Trial Appeals and Connie's Pizza Included in Shark's Tales

Attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez returns with more Shark Tales. The ABA Journal's January 2008 issue included an article titled Full Court Coverage. It is a very nicely done piece that addressed the question: "What happens when defense counsel and ordinary citizens blog about high-profile trials?". Both Joseph R. Lopez and The Chicago Syndicate were interviewed for perspective on this subject.

One clarifying comment on the article. There is a quote that references the movie The Funeral that is attributed to Joe Batterz. That quote was actually from an article by Josh Casey in a special report for The Chicago Syndicate. Long time readers will recognize that we have had several writers submit their original articles for posting. We actually have a few more under development and have been approached by other attorneys as well about sending their comments from time to time. Stay tuned for that.

Below, "The Shark" brings us up to speed on the next moves in the Family Secrets Case and he provides us a with a restaurant review of a place that he gives a thumbs down.

This months American Bar Journal has an article about this blog, me, and the Family Secrets trial.

Still no word on Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitch Mars who has been on sick leave since October. Mitch was a fixture in the U.S. Attorney's office and great opponent. We all wish him well and hope he can return for round 2.

Shark is preparing a motion to question the anonymous jury under oath and in court under rule 606 of the federal rules. It's clear that something happened in the jury room and the only to find out is to ask the jurors; this case will be in litigation for many more years.

A lot of people I know will not eat Connie's Pizza anymore including myself. I do not like beefer pizza. If you want to beef, you could have told the truth Mr. Stolfe about you and Frank being friends. Instead you were like a coward on the stand. - Jo Shark

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shark Tales and Thanksgiving Wishes

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez returns with more Shark Tales. In this addition, he comments on the surreal celebrity event status the Family Secrets trial acheived this past summer. He also catches up on his work and travels since the first phase of the trial concluded and passes along Happy Thanksgiving wishes. Lopez represented Frank Calabrese who was a defendent with 4 others including Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo and James "Little Jimmy" Marcello.

In July one day a family of tourists came to see the trial. They were dressed in shorts and were from Europe they came to see the trial because they wanted to see real American gangsters. They were not the only ones who came. People flocked to see us like we were an attraction at Navy Pier.

The courtroom was packed everyday with gawkers and gangster groupies. All eyes were upon us. Needless to say Frank was the main attraction, followed by Lombardo and Marcello. Lombardo has that catchy moniker and Jim Marcello looks like a next door neighbor.

This case reinvents itself every few weeks with new legal issues. This jury issue of the alleged overhearing of a threat to Markus Funk raises a whole new issue for all the defendants. This issue will not be resolved until next year. Meanwhile, the guys wait it out.

As for me, the trial may be over but the work continues on this case and others. I have been doing a lot traveling taking the dog and staying in truck driver motels. I was down in the Okefenokee forest at a small jail, a place of American I have never seen. There was not a wiseguy in sight. I wonder if any beefers live down there in obscurity. It was a million miles from Taylor street. I was happy to find a Ruby Tuesday to eat dinner where i enjoyed two glasses of Cabernet, a mound of mixed greens and a prime beef burger. As I looked around, I saw people living a simple life, not like the rat race that I am used to here in Chicago.

I want to wish all my supporters and my critics who despise me a wonderful Thanksgiving. We should be proud to be Americans and this day is one that belongs to us to show the world how strong and tight we really are on this holiday. To my paisans out there do not eat too much lasagna and sausage; eat more turkey and on Friday get some Italian bread, mayo, turkey, provolone, and hot peppers and make a giant sangwich. Do not drive and drink. I know I will drain a bottle of wine and I have a designated driver. Ciao! - Joe Shark

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Dentist Gets Drilled by "The Shark"

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez returns with more Shark Tales from the Family Secrets trial and some questions for Pat Spilotro, the dentist brother of Tony and Michael Spilotro. Pat testified during the trial regarding his relationship with some of the defendants. Nick Calabrese, testifying for the prosecution, revealed how both Tony and Michael met their demise.

"The trial was quite a show of characters. The best was Dr. Spilotro, the rat. If his brothers could have seen him on the stand testifying as a government witness they would have puked. He was disgusting. He sat there like a big church victim crying about his brothers.

What about the families of the guys his brother killed, did he weep for them? What about the guy whose head went into the vise or the burglars that were killed? What about those guys doc?

There were times I thought the trial would never end. Day after day was a grind. Judge Zagel kept it going at a good pace. The big issue on appeal will be the double jeporady arguments of Calabrese and Marcello. This case will go on for years to come and it aint over yet!" - Joe Shark

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Joseph Lopez Returns with More Shark Tales

I am happy to announce that I am back and the gag order is off.

I can say it was a long trial and quite an interesting mix of people. The jury was anonymous which added to the intrigue of the case. The spectators were plentiful and even tourists stopped by to see this trial. It was a long hot summer. The trial tested the system to its limits.

Most days, the court room was busting at its seems. In the end, it slowed down. There were over 100 witnesses and stipulations. There was a cart of evidence. The jury deliberated for many days and reached its decision after hours of deliberations and deadlocked on the others.

This is how the system works and that is why its great to live in America. Americans fought for this system and the other rights we enjoy. My colleagues were also a group of great lawyers with many different personalities which added to the mix. Of course, the defendants were the main attractions for the press and spectators. To me, they were the accused. - Joe Shark

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yes Your Honor

As readers first learned on Sunday, The Shark Attacks segment was going to be curtailed so as to not be too specific or as spicy as it had been since the start of the Family Secrets Mob Trial. The reason is that the author of those posts, Joseph Lopez, who represents Frank Calabrese Sr. in court, had been ordered by Judge Zagel to temper his comments. It is my understanding that the government had made that request to the judge in closed chambers last week. Although, I give them an open invitation to share with me their observations on the proceedings as well. Who knew that anybody even read this site? ;-)

Since that post on Sunday, I have had a handful of attorneys contact me to express their concern on the ruling as matter of First Amendment rights. A few sites that they shared with me that I will pass along include the First Amendment Center and a trial transcript regarding a case in which the judge had a similar reaction. As long time readers will know, if you have something to share, I am glad to pass it along to all of the readers that stop by here. In fact, the majority of my links are ones suggested to me by those in law enforcement and the media.

In terms of coverage of the trial, when I spoke with Shark over the weekend, we have both been impressed with in depth reporting from The Tribune and the Sun Times. In particular, Jeff Coen and Steve Warmbir. If you have been visiting my site for anytime, you will know that I have been a fan of both men for a while. Personally, I also love that Steve has even created a blog himself that has an abundance of additional information that does not make into the regular newspaper. It is an excellent marriage of using the new media to support and expand upon the established media. There is no doubt that we are in good hands with both papers to keep us informed all summer long. If my schedule permits, I hope to even attend the trial one day myself to give a first hand account.

Has "The Shark" had his teeth pulled?

The federal judge presiding over the Family Secrets mob case in Chicago has privately told Joseph "The Shark" Lopez -- the defense lawyer for reputed Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. -- to stop allowing his critiques of the trial to be posted on an Internet blog.

Lopez, among the more colorful defense attorneys at the trial, called a witness in one blog posting "boring," a doofus and -- using Italian slang -- an ass.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel was not amused and ordered Lopez to stop e-mailing his entries to the blog, chicagosyndicate.blogspot.com. The judge recently took the action behind closed doors, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Friday, Lopez, among the more media-friendly lawyers in the case, took the uncharacteristic step of having no comment. "I can't talk about it because it's under seal," Lopez said.

In general, attorneys are prohibited during trial from making statements outside of court that could have a prejudicial effect on the case.

Last Tuesday, Lopez went to great lengths -- before telling the news media about his client's reaction to the day's testimony -- to say he would not comment on specific witnesses. Not that Lopez's short-lived blog had only negative things to say.

Lopez noted the judge was "doing an excellent job of moving [the] trial along at a good pace."

He gave kudos to one of the prosecutors on the government team, noting tangentially, "he is quite a sailor." He criticized another as "monotone and dry with no emotion."

And Lopez was kind to a fellow defense attorney, Rick Halprin, who represents reputed top mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo. In one cross-examination, "Halprin was great as usual," Lopez wrote.

When asked about the compliment on the blog, Halprin said, "While I agreed with the sentiment, it's still inappropriate."

"The only opinion that counts is the jury's," Halprin said. Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Judge Muzzling Attorneys at Mob Trial?

Attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, who is representing Frank Calabrese Sr. in the Chicago Family Secrets Mob Trial, has agreed to provide us with updates on his observations and thoughts regarding the various court proceedings.

Today, Shark indicates that Judge Zagel has ordered him to tone down his comments to the media.

Joseph 'The Shark' Lopez
"Local court rules do not allow me to comment on the witnesses in this case. Somehow my first amendment got lost in the fray. Frank (Calabrese) Jr. is on stand, as Jeff Coen wrote, he made all kinds of allegations. The tapes will be played next week. It should be an intersting week. I can't wait until cross examination. At least three lawyers will ask him questions. It's sure to be a great week. Judge Zagel is moving the trial along and the prosecutors are moving witnesses in and out. As usual, I asked a gazillion questions last week. This week should be the same. Stay Tuned." - Shark

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