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.