Showing posts with label Tony Accardo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Accardo. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Century of Chicago Mob Bosses

A thumbnail history of Chicago's mob leaders. Dates are approximate.

1910
"Big Jim" Colosimo (1910 to 1920). Chicago's vice lord runs brothels and nightspots, shot dead in 1920 at his popular restaurant. Death cleared way for Capone

1920
Johnny Torrio (1920 to 1925). Reserved boss, eschews violence, retires in 1925 after a fouled-up hit leaves him barely alive.

1925
Al Capone (1925 to 1932). Made Chicago mob famous. Perhaps the most successful mob boss ever, the subject of countless books and movies, done in by the IRS for tax evasion.

1932
Frank Nitti (1932 to 1943). With help from Jake Guzik, rebuilds the Outfit after Capone's departure. Commits suicide after he's indicted in 1943.

1943
Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (1943 to 1950). Has a son who's a drug addict and decrees no Outfit member can have anything to do with narcotics trafficking.

1950
Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (1950 to 1957). Considered the most capable Outfit leader ever. Never spends significant time in jail. Always plays key role as adviser, but facing a tax case, he officially hands reins over to ...

1957
Sam "Mooney" Giancana (1957 to 1966). Attends the infamous Apalachin, N.Y., meeting that draws national attention to organized crime, draws even more focus on the Outfit with his flamboyance, shared a girlfriend with JFK, flees country for eight years, slain in 1975 at his Oak Park home.

1966
Sam "Teets" Battaglia (1966). Tough leader who is convicted in federal court same year, dies in prison.

1966
John "Jackie" Cerone (1966 to 1969). Considered one of the smartest underworld figures, a strong leader, then the feds pinch him.

1969
Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio (1969 to 1971). The mob killer is an unpopular leader, then he's convicted of bank fraud.

1971
Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa (1971 to 1986). A Cicero mobster who ran gambling and strip clubs and grows into the job, with help from Accardo, Gus Alex and, later, Cerone. He is convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

1986
Joseph Ferriola (1986 to 1989). Heads the Outfit for only a few years before succumbing to heart problems.

1989
Sam Carlisi (1989 to 1993). Protege to Aiuppa and mentor to James "Little Jimmy" Marcello. Carlisi and his crew are decimated by federal prosecutions.

1997
John "No Nose" DiFronzo (1997 to 2018). Called mob boss by Chicago Crime Commission, but other mob watchers disagree.

2018
Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis (2018 to Current?) Although not official, Solly D is considered by many mafia experts to be one the highest ranking mobster on the streets in Chicago although he has long denied these claims. It is said that his 2nd in command could be convicted mob enforcer, Albert "Albie the Falcon" Vena. Time will tell.

Friday, January 11, 2019

THE OUTFIT'S GREATEST HITS

The Chicago Outfit's Greatest Hits from 1920 to 2001.

1920: Big Jim Colosimo is slain in his popular Wabash Avenue restaurant, making way for the rise of Al Capone. Largely credited with taking the steps to create what would become known as the "Chicago Outfit"

1924: Dion O'Banion is shot dead in his flower shop across from Holy Name Cathedral. Chief suspects are his beer war enemies, the Genna brothers. Started hijacking whiskey right before the start of prohibition kicked in.

1929: Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang are gunned down, allegedly on orders of Capone, at 2122 N. Clark in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Moran himself, lucky man, is late for the meeting at the S.M.C. Carting Co.


38 Detective Special1930: Jake Lingle, a Chicago Tribune reporter in the mob's pocket, is slain in the Illinois Central train station. He had crossed many mobsters, including Capone. Shot behind the ear with a 38 caliber detective's special on the way to the racetrack, Lingle was given a hero's funeral. It was only later that it was learned that he was really a legman for the mob.


1936: Capone gunman and bodyguard "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn is gunned down at a Milwaukee Avenue bowling alley, the day before Valentine's Day. Given the timing, the Moran gang was suspected. In addition to his skill with a machine gun, McGurn was also considered a scratch golfer who considered going pro and boxed as a welterweight where he was known as Battling Jack McGurn. He is credited with over 25 mob kills and McGurn was also suspected of being the principal gunner and planner of the St. Valentines Day Massacre.


1975: Mob boss Sam Giancana is killed, while cooking sausage, in the basement of his Oak Park home after he becomes a liability to the Outfit. "The Don" calls Giancana the Godfather of Godfathers - The Most Powerful Mafioso in America. Started as a hitman for Capone. Rose to boss of the Chicago crime family. Friend of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra & Marilyn Monroe. Rigged the Chicago vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960.


Joe Batters1978: Six burglars who struck at mob boss Anthony Accardo's (AKA Joe Batters by the FBI and THE Big Tuna by the Chicago media) house are found slain across the city.


1983: Worried he will sing to the feds, mobsters gun down crooked Chicago businessman Allen Dorfman outside the Hyatt Hotel in Lincolnwood. Dorfman had already been convicted under operation Pendorf: Pentration of Dorfman, along with Teamsters President Roy Williams and Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, when he was hit by the Outfit afraid he would look to reduce his sentence.


1983: Mob gambling lieutenant Ken Eto is shot three times in the head. Miraculously, he survives and testifies against old pals.


1986: The mob's man in Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother Michael Spilotro are beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. Glamorized in the movie Casino in which Joe Pesci played "Tony the Ant". Opened up a gift shop at the Circus-Cirus Hotel and Casino where he based his operations. The Family Secrets Trial revealed that the two were originally murdered by a crew led by James Marcello in a house in Bensonville. 


2001: Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti, a vicious juice loan debt collector, is shot to death outside a restaurant in suburban Lyons by a man in a hooded sweat shirt. Chiaramonti had been caught on a tape played at the trial of Sam Carlisi, grabbing a trucking company owner, Anthony LaBarbera, by the throat, lifting him in the air and warning him not to be late in paying juice loan money. LaBarbera was wearing an FBI body recorder at the time. Interesting enough, the restaurant where he was shot was a Brown's Chicken and Pasta, where I have had lunch a handful of times.

Thanks to the Chicago SunTimes and additional various sources.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hollywood and the Mafia

Bollywood's connections with the underworld are common knowledge. There is a certain level of romanticism attached to the lives of the mafiosi and their molls. But, the fact remains that even Hollywood greats like ol' blue eyes Frank Sinatra and the original bombshell Marilyn Monroe were rumored to have underworld links. Here's a look at some of the folklore:

The ChairmanFrank Sinatra, actor-singer:

Special agents from the CIA and FBI had kept tabs him on the since 1947 when he took a four-day trip to Havana. He had painted the town red with a gaggle of powerful Cosa Nostra members. Sinatra's other rumored criminal associates included Joseph and Rocco Fischetti, who were cousins of Al Capone and reigning Chicago boss Sam Giancana. When Giancana had been arrested in 1958, the police found Sinatra's private telephone number in Giancana's wallet.

In the summer of 1959, Sinatra allegedly hosted a nine-day, round-the-clock party at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City where Chicago wise guys rubbed elbows with top East Coast mobsters, including Vito Genovese and Tommy Lucchese. Charges like these plagued Frank Sinatra throughout his life, and he repeatedly and vehemently denied having any association with the mafia.


MarilynMarilyn Monroe, actress:

The extensive influence the Chicago mafia had over Hollywood is best illustrated in 1948 when Chicago Mafia boss Tony Accardo had told John Rosselli to force powerful Columbia Pictures' president Harry Cohn into signing then-unknown actor Marilyn Monroe to a lucrative multi-year contract. The usually highly combative Cohn quickly complied without opposition, mainly because Cohn had obtained control of Columbia through mob funds and influence provided by both Accardo and Rosselli.


Bugsy SiegelBugsy Siegel, mobster:

Siegel had a number of mistresses, including actor Ketti Gallian and Wendy Barrie With the aid of DiFrasso and actor friend George Raft, Siegel gained entry into Hollywood's inner circle. He is alleged to have used his contacts to extort movie studios. He lived in extravagant fashion, as befitting his reputation. The highly fictionalized motion picture Bugsy was based on his life with Warren Beatty in the title role.


Lana TurnerLana Turner, actor:

After acting in 'Johnny Eager', a mafia flick, Lana began her own involvement with a real life mobster, Johnny Stompenado, a crew member for the Hollywood mob organisation headed then by Mickey Cohen. Stompenado had confronted several of Turner's screen co-stars, including a celebrated tiff with Sean Connery.


Mickey Cohen
Mickey Cohen, mobster:


He begun his mafia career as a thug for Vegas boss Ben Siegel before moving to Hollywood. Cohen inherited Siegel's racing interests and operated a small haberdashery in Los Angeles that served as a front for a book making enterprise. Always high profile, he dressed lavishly and flaunted his money and friendships with Hollywood heavy-weights.


Steve BingSteve Bing, producer:

Best know for being the father of Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian, Bing's friends are said to include Dominic 'Donny Shacks' Montemarano, a felon and one time capo in the mafia.


Thanks to After Hrs.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Frank Sinatra and the Mob

"Sinatra and the Mob"

Frank Sinatra always denied his ties to the Mafia, and neither government investigators nor the press could make the rumors stick- until now. In an excerpt from their book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan uncover the full extent of the immortal crooner's connections with Lucky Luciano and other infamous Mob figures.

Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan


Debut March 18, 1939.

In a studio on West 46th Street in New York City, a band was playing Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." It was a simple place, a room with couches and lamps, hung with drapes to muffle the echo from the walls. This was a big day for the musicians, who were recording for the first time.

A skinny young man listened as they played. The previous night, at the Sicilian Club near his home in New Jersey, he had asked if he could tag along. Now, as the band finished playing, he stepped forward and spoke to the bandleader. "May I sing?" he asked.

The bandleader glanced at the studio clock to see if they had time left, then told the young man to go ahead. He chose "Our Love," a stock arrangement based on a melody from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Standing at the rudimentary microphone, he launched into a saccharine lyric:

Our love, I feel it everywhere Our love is like an evening prayer ... I see your face in stars above, As I dream on, in all the magic of Our love.

Unseasoned, a little reedy, the voice was transmitted through an amplifier to a recording device known as a lathe. The lathe drove the sound to a needle, and the needle carved a groove on a twelve-inch aluminum-based lacquer disc. The result was a record, to be played on a turntable at seventy-eight revolutions per minute.

The bandleader kept the record in a drawer for nearly sixty years. He would take it out from time to time, with delight and increasing nostalgia, to play for friends. The music on it sounds tinny, a relic of the infancy of recording technology. Yet the disc is kept in a locked safe. The attorney for the bandleader's widow, an octogenarian on Social Security, says the singer's heirs have demanded all rights and the lion's share of any potential income derived from it, thus obstructing its release.

The disc is a valuable piece of musical history. Its tattered adhesive label, typed with an old manual machine, shows the recording was made at Harry Smith Studios, "electrically recorded" for bandleader Frank Mane. Marked "#1 Orig.," it is the very first known studio recording of the thousand and more that were to make that skinny young man the most celebrated popular singer in history. For, under "Vocal chor. by," it bears the immaculately handwritten legend: Frank Sinatra

A year after making that first record, at twenty-five, Sinatra told a new acquaintance how he saw his future. "I'm going to be the best singer in the world," he said, "the best singer that ever was."

A Family from Sicily

Io sono Siciliano ..." I am Sicilian.

At the age of seventy-one, in the broiling heat of summer in 1987, Frank Sinatra was singing, not so well by that time, in the land of his fathers. "I want to say," he told a rapt audience at Palermo's Favorita Stadium, "that I love you dearly for coming tonight. I haven't been in Italy for a long time-I'm so thrilled. I'm very happy."

The crowd roared approval, especially when he said he was Sicilian, that his father was born in Sicily. Sinatra's voice cracked a little as he spoke, and he looked more reflective than happy. At another concert, in the northern Italian city of Genoa, he had a joke for his audience. "Two very important and wonderful people came from Genoa," he quipped. "One ... Uno: Christopher Columbus. Due: mia Mamma ..."

This second crowd cheered, too, though a little less enthusiastically when he mentioned that his father was Sicilian. "I don't think," he said wryly, "that they're too thrilled about Sicilia." It was a nod to northern Italians' feelings about the island off the southernmost tip of the country. They look down on its people as backward and slothful, and because, as all the world knows, it is synonymous with organized crime. It is the island of fire and paradox, the dismembered foot of the leg of Italy. Sicily: at ten thousand square miles the largest island in the Mediterranean, a cornucopia of history that remains more remote and mysterious than anywhere in Europe.

The island's story has been a saga of violence. Its ground heaved to earthquakes, and its volcanoes spat fire and lava, long before Christ. Its population carries the genes of Greeks and Romans, of Germanic Vandals and Arabs, of Normans and Spaniards, all of them invaders who wrote Sicily's history in blood.

"Sicily is ungovernable," Luigi Barzini wrote. "The inhabitants long ago learned to distrust and neutralize all written laws." Crime was endemic, so alarmingly so that a hundred years ago the island's crime rate was said to be the worst in Europe. By then, the outside world had already heard the spectral name that has become inseparable from that of the island-Mafia.

The origin of that word is as much a mystery as the criminal brotherhood itself, but in Sicily "mafia" has one meaning and "Mafia"-with an upper case "M"-another. For the islanders, in Barzini's view, the word "mafia" was originally used to refer to "a state of mind, a philosophy of life, a concept of society, a moral code." At its heart is marriage and the family, with strict parameters. Marriage is for life, divorce unacceptable and impossible.

A man with possessions or special skills was deemed to have authority, and known as a padrone. In "mafia" with a small "m," those who lived by the code and wielded power in the community were uomini rispettati, men of respect. They were supposed to behave chivalrously, to be good family men, and their word was their bond. They set an example, and they expected to be obeyed.

The corruption of the code and the descent to criminality was rapid. Well before the dawn of the twentieth century, the Mafia with a capital "M," though never exactly an organization, was levying tribute from farmers, controlling the minimal water supply, the builders and the businessmen, fixing prices and contracts.

Cooperation was enforced brutally. Those who spoke out in protest were killed, whatever their station in life. The Mafia made a mockery of the state, rigging elections, corrupting the politicians it favored, and terrorizing opponents. From 1860 to 1924, not a single politician from Sicily was elected to the Italian parliament without Mafia approval. The island and its people, as one early visitor wrote, were "not a dish for the timid."

Frank Sinatra's paternal grandfather grew up in Sicily in the years that followed the end of foreign rule, a time of social and political mayhem. His childhood and early adult years coincided with the collapse of civil authority, brutally suppressed uprisings, and the rise of the Mafia to fill the power vacuum.

Beyond that, very little has been known about the Sinatra family's background in Sicily. The grandfather's obituary, which appeared in the New York Times because of his famous grandson, merely had him born "in Italy" in 1884 (though his American death certificate indicates he was born much earlier, in 1866). Twice, in 1964 and in 1987, Frank Sinatra told audiences that his family had come from Catania, about as far east as one can go in Sicily. Yet he told one of his musicians, principal violist Ann Barak, that they came from Agrigento on the southwestern side of the island. His daughter Nancy, who consulted her father extensively while working on her two books about his life, wrote that her great-grandfather had been "born and brought up" in Agrigento. His name, according to her, was John.

In fact he came from neither Catania nor Agrigento, was born earlier than either of the dates previously reported, and his true name was Francesco-in the American rendering, Frank.

Sicilian baptismal and marriage records, United States immigration and census data, and interviews with surviving grandchildren establish that Francesco Sinatra was born in 1857 in the town of Lercara Friddi, in the hills of northwest Sicily. It had about ten thousand inhabitants and it was a place of some importance, referred to by some as piccolo Palermo, little Palermo.

The reason was sulfur, an essential commodity in the paper and pharmaceutical industries, in which Sicily was rich and Lercara especially so. Foreign companies reaped the profits, however, and most locals languished in poverty. The town was located, in the words of a prominent Italian editor, in "the core territory of the Mafia." The town lies fifteen miles from Corleone, a name made famous by The Godfather and in real life a community credited with breeding more future American mafiosi than any other place in Sicily. It is just twelve miles from the Mafia stronghold of Prizzi-as in Prizzi's Honor, the Richard Condon novel about the mob and the film based on it that starred Jack Nicholson.

It was Lercara Friddi, however, that produced the most notorious mafioso of the twentieth century. Francesco Sinatra's hometown spawned Lucky Luciano. Luciano was "without doubt the most important Italian-American gangster," according to one authority, and "head of the Italian underworld throughout the land," according to a longtime head of the Chicago Crime Commission. One of his own lawyers described him as having been, quite simply, "the founder of the modern Mafia."

Luciano, whose real name was Salvatore Lucania, was born in Lercara Friddi in 1897. Old marriage and baptismal registers show that his parents and Francesco Sinatra and his bride, Rosa Saglimbeni, were married at the church of Santa Maria della Neve within two years of each other. Luciano was baptized there, in the same font as Francesco's first two children.

In all the years of speculation about Frank Sinatra's Mafia links, this coincidence of origin has remained unknown. Other new information makes it very likely that the Sinatras and the Lucanias knew each other. The two families lived on the same short street, the Via Margherita di Savoia, at roughly the same time. Luciano's address book, seized by law enforcement authorities on his death in 1962 and available today in the files of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, contains only two entries for individuals who lived in Lercara Friddi: one a member of his own family and the other a man named Saglimbeni, a relative of the woman Francesco Sinatra married. Even if the Sinatras and the Lucanias did not know each other, Luciano's later notoriety makes it certain that the Sinatra family eventually learned that they and the gangster shared the same town of origin. Kinship and origins are important in Italian-American culture, and were even more so in the first decades of the diaspora.

As a boy, Frank Sinatra could have learned from any of several older relatives that his people and Luciano came from the same Sicilian town. He certainly should have learned it from Francesco, who lived with Sinatra's family after his wife's death and often minded his grandson when the boy's parents were out.

Francesco, moreover, survived to the age of ninety-one, until long after Luciano had become an infamous household name and Frank Sinatra an internationally famous singer. Sinatra himself indicated, and a close contemporary confirmed, that he and his grandfather were "very close." Late in life, he said he had gone out of his way to "check back" on his Sicilian ties. And yet, as we have seen, he muddied the historical waters by suggesting that his forebears came from Sicilian towns far from Lercara Friddi.

That the Sinatra family came from the same town as a top mafioso was not in itself a cause for embarrassment. The reason for the obfuscation, though, may be found in the family involvement with bootlegging in Frank Sinatra's childhood and, above all, in his own longtime relationship with Luciano himself, the extent of which can now be documented for the first time.

* * *

There was only one school in Lercara Friddi, and few people there could read or write. Francesco Sinatra was no exception, but he did have a trade-he was a shoemaker. He married Rosa, a local woman his own age, when both were in their early twenties, and by the time they turned thirty, in 1887, the couple had two sons. As the century neared its close, thousands of Sicilians were going hungry, especially in the countryside. There were food riots, and crime was rampant.

In western Sicily, the Mafia's power had become absolute. Palermo, the island's capital, spawned the first capo di tutti capi, Don Vito, who would one day forge the first links between the Sicilian Mafia and the United States. His successor, Don Carlo, operated from a village just fourteen miles from Lercara Friddi. Some of the most notorious American mob bosses - Tony Accardo, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante - were, like Luciano, of western Sicilian parentage.

By 1889 Francesco and Rosa had moved to a working-class suburb of Palermo. Two more sons were born there, but died in infancy, possibly victims of the cholera epidemic that ravaged the neighborhood in the early 1890s. One and a half million Sicilians were to leave the island in the next twenty-five years, many going to Argentina and Brazil and, increasingly, to the United States.

Francesco Sinatra joined the exodus in the summer of 1900. At the age of forty-three, he said goodbye to Rosa and their surviving children-there were by now three sons and two daughters-and boarded a ship for Naples. There he transferred to the British steamer Spartan Prince, carrying a steerage ticket to New York. At Ellis Island, on July 6, he told immigration officials he planned to stay with a relative living on Old Broadway in Manhattan. He had $30 in his pocket.

Francesco found work, and soon had enough confidence to start sending for his family. His eldest son, Isidor, joined him in America, and Salvatore, just fifteen and declaring himself a shoemaker like his father, arrived in 1902. Rosa arrived at Christmas the following year, accompanied by Antonino, age nine, and their two daughters, Angelina and Dorotea, who were younger. Antonino-Anthony Martin or Marty, as he would become in America-was to father the greatest popular singer of the century.

The Statue of Liberty smiled, Frank Sinatra would say in an emotional moment forty years later, when his father "took his first step on Liberty's soil." For many Italian newcomers, however, the smile proved illusory.

(Continues...)

Copyright 2005 Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan
All right reserved.
ISBN: 0-375-41400-2


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, April 26, 2018

Mob Adjacent: A Family Memoir

Mob Adjacent: A Family Memoir, takes an acid trip down memory lane as brothers Jeffrey and Michael Gentile, Jr. discover a parallel world hidden behind a suburban façade. For them, "The Wonder Years" collides with "The Sopranos." Mobsters come to dinner, contract hits come with warning notices, and thieves deliver merchandise and people. How does something like that happen to an ordinary family?

Blame it on the company they keep. Friends and acquaintances include legendary crime boss Sam Giancana, Jackie Cerone; and an assortment of hoodlums, gangsters, bone-breakers, and second-story guys, with cameo appearances by Tony Accardo, Frank Sinatra, Leo Durocher, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Joan Collins, Liza Minelli, and Elizabeth Taylor. For the Gentile brothers, life at the intersection of Hoodlum and Gangster yields dividends and teaches lessons. This is their story.

Mob Adjacent: A Family Memoir.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Making of the Mob: Chicago

The Making of the Mob: Chicago, is an eight-episode docu-drama chronicling the rise and fall of iconic gangster Al Capone, as well as the story of his successors, collectively known as “The Chicago Outfit.” Spanning the better part of a century, the series begins with Capone’s early days in New York and continues through his move to Chicago - to work with his childhood mentor in the underworld. When Prohibition hits, battles break out as the city’s gangs rush to set up bootlegging operations and Capone decides to go up against his rivals. As he consolidates power, he achieves legendary status for his ruthless tactics and over-the-top lifestyle that attracts the wrath of President Herbert Hoover.

Episode 1
Capone’s First Kill
Capone gets a taste of the underworld in Brooklyn with Johnny Torrio. Reuniting in Chicago, they start bootlegging and anger local Irish gangsters.

Episode 2
A Death in the Family
A new mayor forces Torrio and Capone outside Chicago to nearby Cicero. There, Capone's brother Frank fixes an election, placing himself in jeopardy.

Episode 3
Blood Filled Streets
A betrayal destroys peace in Chicago, and Torrio and Capone seek revenge against the Irish gangs. The "Beer Wars" make Capone Chicago's top gangster.

Episode 4
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Capone uses the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to assert his power over his enemies. President Hoover takes notice, and Eliot Ness takes on Capone.

Episode 5
Judgment Day
Al Capone outwits Eliot Ness, but Capone's criminal empire remains in jeopardy when the IRS plants an undercover agent in his gang.

Episode 6
New Blood
With Capone in jail, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo take over. A Hollywood scandal presents Sam Giancana with a chance to prove himself.

Episode 7
Sin City
Tony Accardo sets his sights on Las Vegas, but when Sam Giancana incurs the wrath of young attorney Robert F. Kennedy, The Outfit is threatened.

Episode 8
Last Man Standing
Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana have a falling out, and the fate of the Outfit rests on the outcome. Tony Accardo cleans up loose ends before retiring.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Former Reputed Mobster Michael Magnafichi on Faith

Michael Magnafichi, once described by authorities as a “made” member of the Chicago mob, raised Catholic, says he prays every night before bed, believes in heaven for most people.

Nearly 20 years ago, an FBI document described Magnafichi as a “rising star” in Chicago’s underworld. How would he describe himself now, at 55?

“Well, not ‘up and coming in the mob,’ that’s for sure. I describe myself as first just enjoying life, I guess. . . . I still play a lot of golf.”

“I don’t do anything illegal any more. I was basically just in the gambling business . . . Truth of it is what’s legal today was illegal yesterday. Now, there’s gambling all over the place . . . It’s a thing people are doing at their office on their breaks,” going online.

Grew up in Bensenville, went to college for two years or so, including Northern Illinois University on a partial golf scholarship.

His dad Lee Magnafichi was a mob figure of some heft, a confidante of late Chicago Outfit overlord Tony Accardo and deceased boss Jackie Cerone. He died of cancer in 1989.

“We were a very structured family, meals at home . . . very normal.”

“Wasn’t beaten . . . over the head” with religion.

“We were born and raised Catholic, went to catechism” — in other words, Sunday school — “church every Sunday . . . My father didn’t go.” But his mom often did.

“She always . . . told us that you don’t have to go anywhere to have faith. You could say your prayers. As long as you believe in God and try to do good by God, God could hear you anywhere.”

His parish growing up was St. Alexis in Bensenville, though the family also attended Holy Ghost in Wood Dale sometimes.

Magnafichi’s dad didn’t discuss it but had religious beliefs. When he got ill, a friend’s wife gave him a saint’s medallion that he kept in his wallet.

“I always thought that religiously, that if you don’t pray during the good times and only in the bad times, that God wouldn’t hear you. But that’s not necessarily true.

“I’m no religious person. I don’t go to church . . . I do say prayers, though. I pray every night before I go to bed. . . . I say an Our Father, Act of Contrition and a Hail Mary. And I pray for . . . healthiness for all my friends and family.

“I believe that God does answer your prayers in His time. You can’t say a prayer, buy a Lotto ticket, say, ‘God make me win this Lotto.’

“I believe in, I don’t want to say karma, but it seems like good things happen to good people.”

How do mobsters reconcile religious convictions with a criminal life?

“A guy one time told me that God is not concerned with the person, he’s concerned with the person’s soul. So the person could do things that maybe aren’t God’s way, but, if the soul is good, that’s what God’s concerned with. And that’s how I think a lot of guys rolled with it, dealt with it that way.”

In other words, “This is my business, but this is my life, my life I choose to lead one way, my business” is different.

“I don’t know if that’s hypocritical, I don’t know if it just works for me, but it does.

“My dad was away when we were young. He went away for four years.

“I’m at peace with everything I’ve done . . . I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have peace with it . . . You can call that what you want, but that’s just my way.”

Once during mass as a kid, when the basket was being passed for donations, the priest said, “I want to hear a silent collection today” — meaning just bills, no change.

“You kind of lose respect for the Church. They’re a business, too.”

He’s godfather to several friends’ kids.

He stopped regularly going to church around 13. “I was sports-minded . . . I just didn’t make time for it.”

The 10 Commandments, “I’ve broken a few.”

“I’ve gotten caught up in some things, I’ve been in jail before . . . but I believe I paid the price for that.

“My idea of heaven would just be Augusta National, being able to play that every day.”

Believes most people make it to heaven.

But “I think what these terrorists are doing, I think that’s unforgivable . . . I don’t think God has a place for these people who kill innocent people for no reason.”

Thanks to Robert Herguth.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Kiddo, Joe Batters

Tony Accardo, is, without a doubt, the most successful, the most powerful, most respected and the longest lived Boss the Chicago syndicate, or probably any criminal syndicate for that matter, has ever had. During his long tenure, Accardo's power was long reaching and frightfully vast.

He was so respected and feared in the national Mafia that in 1948 when he declared himself as the arbitrator for any mob problems west of Chicago, in effect proclaiming all of that territory as his, no one in the syndicate argued.

He was the boss pure and simple. Unlike Johnny Torrio, Frank Nitti or Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo looked exactly like what he was, a mob thug who could and did dispatch men and women to their death over money or the slightest insult. He was a peasant, even he said that. But he was a reserved man and a thinker, unlike Big Jim Colosimo or Al Capone or Sam Giancana and all those who came after Giancana.

Unlike the other bosses, Accardo knew his limitations. He consulted often with Ricca, Murray Humpreys and Short Pants Campagna because he recognized their intelligence and wisdom and he used it.

He admitted to not having the outward intelligence of Ricca or Nitti or Torrio or even the flare and occasional self-depicting wit of Capone or Giancana. Yet it was Accardo who expanded the outfit's activities into new rackets. It was Accardo who, recognizing the dangers of the white slave trade, streamlined the old prostitution racket during the war years into the new call girl service, which was copied by New York families even though they laughed at the idea at first.

Two decades after prohibition was repealed Accardo introduced bootlegging to the dry states of Kansas and Oklahoma, flooding them with illegal whiskey. He moved the outfit into slot and vending machines, counterfeiting cigarette and liquor tax stamps and expanded narcotics smuggling to a worldwide basis. He had the good sense to invest, with Eddie Vogel as his agent, into manufacturing slot machines and then placed them everywhere, gas stations, restaurants and bars. When Las Vegas exploded, Accardo made sure the casinos used his slots and only his slots.

Watching someone as clever as Paul Ricca and as smart as Frank Nitti go to jail over the Bioff scandal, Accardo pulled the organization away from labor racketeering and extortion. Under Accardo's reign the Chicago mob exploded in growth and grew wealthy as a result.

The outfit grew because, outside of the Kefauver committee, there wasn't a focused attempt on the part of any law enforcement agency to bust up the Chicago syndicate. The FBI was busy catching cold war spies and they didn't acknowledge that the Mafia or even organized crime existed anyway.

Under Accardo's leadership, the gang set its flag in Des Moines Iowa, down state Illinois and, Southern California and deep into Kentucky, Las Vegas, Indiana, Arizona, St. Louis Missouri, Mexico, Central and South America. Accardo's long reign highlighted a golden era for Chicago's syndicate. But it also ushered in the near collapse of the outfit as well. In 1947, as Tony Accardo took the reins of power from Paul Ricca, the outfit produced $3,000,000 in criminal business per year with Accardo, Humpreys, Ricca and Giancana taking in an estimated $40 to $50 million each per year.

Accardo pensioned off the older members of the mob and gave more authority to the younger members of the mob, mostly former 42 gang members like Sam Giancana, the Battaglias and Marshal Caifano.

The money poured in, in hundreds of thousands of dollars every day from all points where Chicago ruled. The hoods who had survived the shoot-outs, gang wars, intergang wars, purges, cop shootings, the national exposés and the federal and state investigations now saw what they had hustled so hard for.

They had more money then they knew what to do with. Like any set of super rich men they hired the best crooked investors money could buy, not the Jake Guzak-Meyer Lansky types either, real investment experts with law and accounting degrees from Harvard and Yale who taught them all sorts of legal tax loopholes to get their cash out of the rackets and into legitimate businesses.

By the time he died in 1992, Tony Accardo, the son of illegal immigrant parents from an Italian ghetto in a Chicago slum, had legal investments in transportation as diverse as commercial office buildings, strip centers, lumber farms, paper factories, hotels and car dealerships, trucking, newspapers, hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

He dictated to his men that "when things are in order at home, it's easier to concentrate on business" so although he allowed them their mistresses and girlfriends, it was his rule that his men spend times with their wives and children. Accardo himself was said never to have cheated on his wife of many years, Clarice.

He declared that no one in the organization could ever threaten or harm a cop or member of the media, no matter how annoying they were. In so long as they were honest and doing their job, they were to be left alone. Yet when an honest Chicago beat cop named Jack Muller ticketed Accardo car for double parking outside the Tradewinds, a mob salon on Rush Street, Accardo made sure that officer Muller was made an example of by his superiors. From that day on, it became commonplace to see hoods park their cars whereever they pleased along Rush street and other places.

Like his mentor Paul Ricca, it was Accardo's firm belief that in order to avoid the tax men, that the outfit should conduct itself as meekly as possible to avoid public attention. Accardo decided that he would keep the lowest profile a mob boss could have and he directed his underbosses to follow the same route. They did, except for Sam Giancana.

Like Ricca, Accardo preached moderation, low profile and patience in all things but unlike Ricca, Accardo seldom practiced what he preached. His estate in exclusive River Forrest, outside of Chicago was extravagant. Far more extravagant then he would allow for any of his men.

Accardo bought the place in 1943 when he started to roll in wartime profits. It had twenty-one rooms, a built in pool...in the house...a black onyx bathtub that cost $10,000 to install in the fifties, and a bowling alley.

The baths were fitted with gold inlaid fixtures, the basement had a large gun and trophy room that sometimes doubled as a mob meeting hall. It had vaulted ceilings, polished wood spiral staircase, a library full of hundreds of volumes of books, pipe organ and a second bowling alley. In the rear of the house stood a guest house.

His backyard barbecue pit, a status symbol in gangdom, was the largest in the outfit only because nobody was stupid enough to build a larger one than the bosses. The half-acre lawn was surrounded by a seven foot high fence and two electrically controlled gates. "It was," wrote Sam Giancana's daughter Annette, "almost obscene the way he flaunted his wealth."

His penchant for showing the world his wealth was in contradiction to his self-effacing ways. In fact, Tony Accardo lacked any real personal flamboyance at all.

A powerfully built man, Accardo was taken with loud clothes, expensive white on white dress shirts, and conservative suits that cost $250, four and half times the average amount for the price of a good wool suit in 1959.

An ardent fisherman, he often spent long weekends fishing the waters off Florida or Bimini or Mexico, most of the time taking Sam Giancana along as his bodyguard.

Over time, he made real efforts to improve himself. He traveled with his wife, or Frank Nitti's son or sometimes alone to tour the great museums and churches of Europe. When Clarice joined a group of educators and traveled around the world to study the living customs of other societies, Accardo sometimes joined her.

Otherwise, Accardo's attempts at respectability were often bumbling. Once, friends managed to have him brought into a private and very exclusive golf club. Everything was fine until Accardo called his thugs to a general meeting on the links. The boys brought no clubs and instead sped across the course in golf carts, ramming into each other and had a picnic on the sixth fairway. The membership was appalled and requested that Accardo resign, which humiliated him no end.

Accardo was a compulsive gambler and was one of his own best customers at his club in Calumet city; the Owl Club. Even towards the end of his life, when he wasn't able to get around as freely, Accardo phoned in his bets. He once said that if he died at the crap tables, he would die a happy man.

He enjoyed his role as the big boss, he liked having his men gossip about him, having them bow and fall all over themselves trying to keep him happy. Accardo made no secret of the fact that he looked down on them and made sure they understood that they were subordinate to him. However he was careful not to act superior around Paul Ricca, the man who had trained him for his position.

Unlike any that came before him or after him, Tony Accardo was totally in charge of his organization, from top to bottom, in large measure due to the fact that Accardo was a feared man and he ruled by fear, and he delighted in his reputation for brutality. But his ruthlessness was probably unneeded, since he was seldom challenged in his position, in large part, because Chicago is ruled by one family, unlike New York, which is ruled by five families. As a result, the control of the organization was easier.

He could be extremely moody and sullen and took offense easily and seldom overlooked even the most delicate of slights against his powerful, and he was powerful, position. "Tony," said one of his acqaintances, "could have the disposition of a rattlesnake, it depended on his mood."

When he snapped, the most accurate way to describe his temper tantrums, the stone cold facade of a businessman, and the thin veneer of respectability dropped away and the world got a peek at the real Tony Accardo.

He could be charming when he had to be, in so long as it wasn't for long periods of time, but otherwise he was surly, rude, crude, and foul-mouthed. "Basically," an FBI report read, "Accardo is a rather simple and often crude and surprisingly cheap individual."

Once, when a teenage waiter was too slow to serve him his hamburger in a restaurant, Accardo sat and fumed. When the teenager arrived with the hamburger, Accardo grabbed a knife off the table and slashed the child's arm open.

On another occasion, Accardo ordered the death of a lawyer for the Chicago Restaurant Association to be killed when the two had an argument over disclosing to the IRS Accardo's $125,000 retainer.

Only the pleading of the always level headed Murray Humpreys saved the lawyer from Accardo's gunners.

Accardo was born to Francisco and Maria Accardo, Sicilian immigrants, on April 28, 1906. He was baptized at the infamous Holy Name Cathedral, seven blocks away from his home on 1353 West Grand Avenue, near Ogden, on the West side.

However, there is some evidence that he may have been born in Italy, in or near Palermo, Sicily. His mother would later file a delayed birth affidavit with the federal government stating that Tony was born in 1904 in Chicago, a full year before she arrived in the United States.

One of six children, Accardo dropped out of the Holy Name Cathedral School in the fifth, or possibly the sixth grade, and took to petty street crime, working mostly in the loop.

While still only a child, he came to the attention of Vincenzo de Mora, AKA Machine Gun Jack McGurn, who was then the leader of the Circus gang, which was run out of the Circus Café at 1857 North Avenue. Both operations, the gang and the café, were owned by Claude Maddox. Maddox would later play a pivotal role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Among the tens of thousands of young and impressionable poor Italian boys who survived in the teaming slums of Chicago, Jack McGurn had an almost godlike stature, so, when McGurn chose Accardo to act as his Gofer, it was an honor.

On March 22, 1922, a young Tony Accardo was arrested for the first time, just six weeks before he turned sixteen, for a motor violation. Several months later, in 1923, Accardo was arrested for disorderly conduct inside a pool hall. He was fined $200 plus court costs. According to court records, Accardo said that he was still living with his parents, which is doubtful, and that he was employed as a delivery boy for a grocery store in Little Italy and later as a truck driver which apparently was true.

Most professional crooks kept a full time job, if in name only, to appease any judge that they might stand before. At that point in his very long criminal career, Accardo was restricted to muggings and pickpocketing inside the loop during the day and stalking on drunks and old people at night.

Like so many other Chicago mobsters who came up through the ranks, Accardo drove a Capone beer truck part time. He graduated to look-out status and then burglaries in the west side.

In 1923, when McGurn left the circus gang to join the Capone operation, Accardo was 17 years old and already an experienced and reliable full time criminal and a big time member of the Circus gang.

By 1925, Tony Accardo had been promoted from daylight muggings to driving for Jack McGurn around town. It signaled to everyone that Accardo was on the way up.

In the summer of 1926, when Al Capone was locked in yet another beer war, he told McGurn the operation needed new gunmen and to "go out and find somebody." The somebody that McGurn got was Tony Accardo who now had a first rate reputation as an enforcer due to a bloody incident that had happened at the start of the year.

In January of 1926 that year the Circus gang, almost exclusively Italian in its makeup, was having a problem with an equally tough Irish street gang called the Hanlon Hellcats, which made its headquarters at the Shamrock Inn. The Hellcats were creeping in on the Circus gang's territory and Accardo was dispatched to take care of the problem any way he saw fit.

At midnight on January 20, Accardo and at least three others blasted the hellcats to kingdom come with shotguns as they left the Shamrock. A police squad from the Austin district was nearby and gave chase but Accardo was shrewd enough to know the law, he ordered the guns to be tossed away just a few minutes before the cops collared him. They were released on bail and eventually the case was dropped, due to lack of evidence.

Now McGurn rushed Accardo over to Capone's office at the Lexington Hotel. Capone, still in his fire-engine-red pajamas at five in the afternoon looked Accardo over and said, "McGurn likes you, so I make you. So you are now one of us, if you fuck up, we take it out on McGurn. He is your sponsor. Fuck up, it's his ass. You work in his crew, he is your capo."

Accardo was assigned to be a hall guard for Capone, spending most of his time in the Lobby at the Lexington, a shotgun on his lap covered by a newspaper.

Capone took a liking to Accardo. Once, the story goes, after Accardo beat a Capone enemy senseless with a baseball bat, Capone saw him in the lobby of the Lexington and yelled, "There's my kiddo, Joe Batters!"

Joe Batters. The name stuck and Accardo loved it. Even years later when he was running the mob, Accardo, who insisted on being called "Mr. Accardo" by his people and their families, allowed a select few to always refer to him as Joe Batters.

Accardo was eventually assigned, with his partner Tough Tony Capezio, whom Accardo had brought into the organization, to kill Hymie Weiss of the Moran gang. Accardo knew Weiss from his childhood. They had attended the same schools and were both regular parishioners of the Holy Name Cathedral and that was where, on October 11, 1926, Accardo and Capezio killed Weiss as he entered his headquarters at 740 North State street near the Holy Name Cathedral.

Right after that Capone decided that it was time for Mike the Pike Hietler, a pimp from the old days of the Levy, to go too, after Capone learned that Hietler had been talking to the authorities.

On April 29th 1931, Heitler was found in the town of Barrington, his car still on fire and the only way they identified Mike the Pike was by his dental remains. He had been strangled and shot before he was set afire. Tony Accardo on has long been considered one of Mike the Pike's killers.

Accardo is also strongly suspected of having been the trigger man behind the Jake Zuta murder as well. It was Accardo who killed gangster Teddy Newberry after Newberry made an attempt to corner organized crime in Chicago.

Accardo may also have been assigned to the St. Valentines Day hit squad. Authorities believe that Accardo was the killer dressed as a Chicago policeman and armed with a double-barreled shotgun.

It was Accardo who set up and supervised the hit on union hustler Tommy Maloy. When Frankie Yale, Al Capone's old boss from back in his days as a Brooklyn thug, tried to take over the powerful Sicilian Union, it was again Accardo who was called in for his firepower.

By early 1940, Accardo was a power in Chicago and in the national Mafia.

Tony Accardo managed to have a 1944 arrest for gambling withdrawn, when he told the court that he intended to join the army. Accardo's lawyer, the legendary mob mouthpiece, George Bieber, told the court: "This young man is eager to get into the fight, don't deny him that right."

The judge released Accardo on the agreement that Accardo would report to his draft board, which he did. But, by then, Accardo was running the Chicago outfit since Paul Ricca was in jail. He already had a 21-room mansion, and an estimated income of $2,000,000 a year, and he wasn't about to give it up for the $21 a week paid to an army private.

Two days later Accardo appeared before the draft board, explained his background in crime, his position in the organization and was summarily rejected by the Army as morally unfit.

The gambling charges were dropped because Accardo had done as he was ordered by the court. In 1945, after he was instrumental in the release of his boss, Paul Ricca, from federal charges for his role in the Willie Bioff scandal, Ricca resigned as the outfit's leader, and promoted Accardo to the top spot.

Accardo held the position, off and on, for the next forty years but in 1958, Big Tony called the boys together at the Tam O'Shanter restaurant and introduced Sam Giancana as the new boss with the simple sentence: "This is Sam, he's a friend of ours."

Thanks to John William Touhy

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Mob Film 'Idol's Eye' Shuts Down Production,

Deadline reports that the film’s production company and financier Benaroya Pictures has decided to cut off financing for the movie due to the producers’ failure to meet  financing deadlines; the film was expected to begin filming in Chicago and Toronto in October. The film would have starred Robert DeNiro, Robert Pattinson, and Rachel Weisz.

Benaroya Pictures released a statement regarding the production’s shut down:

“The company cannot continue to put its investment at risk and has been forced to stop cash flowing the production. This is something all of us wanted to avoid, but due to the producers missing a number of financing criteria deadlines that were mutually established by all parties, we were left with no other options. Benaroya Pictures plans to retain the rights of the film and move forward with production on the picture after we generate a revised script and assemble a new filmmaking team.”

Idol’s Eye is a multilayered crime thriller surrounding the mob world, following the true story of a crew of robbers who were murdered after robbing the home of Chicago mob boss Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo in 1978. Assayas has recently been on the festival circuit celebrating his most recent film, Clouds of Sils Maria, starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Robert De Niro to Join Robert Pattinson on Movie About Murdered Burglary Crew That Stole from Tony Accardo #IdolsEye

Back in 2011 actor Robert De Niro and director Olivier Assayas sat side by side on the Cannes jury. Now they’re making a movie together. Assayas has just hired De Niro to join Robert Pattinson in the film Idol’s Eye. The movie is scheduled to shoot in October in Chicago and Toronto.

The press release announcing the film doesn’t have many details, but there is speculation (via The Film Stage) that this is a retitled launch of the Assayas project Hubris. That was described in 2013 as “an action-packed crime thriller set against the backdrop of organized crime in Chicago in the 1970s.” Which would be something I’d watch the director of Carlos do in a heartbeat.

Indeed, this new film is described as a sophisticated heist action/thriller. And with that Chicago location planned, these probably are one and the same. Or at least one jumps off from the other.

Here’s a rundown. Hubris was a script by Bobby Moresco that Todd Field was going to direct back in 2011. It was based on a 2007 Playboy article called Boosting the Big Tuna, written by reporter Hillel Levin. The story was based on the murders of a crew of guys who robbed the house of Chicago mafia boss Tony Accardo’s (AKA “Big Tuna”) in 1978. After the break-in, several guys suspected of the crime were murdered with, well, let’s say extreme prejudice. Some were tortured. There’s a lot more to the story than that; it’s a hell of a gangland saga, with violence and a big multi-layered investigation. (It’s also the same material that Michael Mann was toying with shooting as Big Tuna a few years ago.)

So where does the name Idol’s Eye come from? The Idol’s Eye is a big diamond — a big famous diamond, in fact. In the ’70s it was owned by a Chicago jeweler. It was never stolen, and was not part of the Big Tuna robbery. But there’s a connection. The owner of the diamond was Harry Levinson, a mob-connected guy. And in 1977 a thief named John Mendell targeted Levinson for his diamond, and planned a huge heist of the rock that was only partially successful. John Mendell is one of the guys who broke into Big Tuna’s place a year later.

So what story is Assayas telling? We’d assume that De Niro is going to play Accardo, and Pattinson will be Mendell. But the title suggests this could be more about the attempt to steal the Idol’s Eye than the Accardo robbery. Both are big, great stories, with potential for some excellent cinematic flavor.

Regaardless, I’ll watch it. Assayas had a good year at Cannes this year, too. While his current film, The Clouds of Sils Maria — a film about film — didn’t win the Palme d’Or, it earned a lot of appreciation while playing on the Croisette. We’re looking forward to seeing that, and having Idol’s Eye on the horizon is a bonus.

Variety adds that Rachel Weisz is now also in talks to join the cast, and confirms that this is a relaunch of the old Hubris project.

Thanks to Russ Fischer.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Review of "A History of Violence: An Encyclopedia of 1,400 Chicago Mob Murders"

From his boyhood memories of the raid on a bookie joint under the Chicago apartment where he grew up to the murder cases he worked on as an officer with the Chicago Police Department's organized crime division, Harper College professor Wayne A. Johnson has been steeped in the violence of mobsters.

Isolated murders, such as the infamous Valentine's Day Massacre or the beating deaths of brothers Anthony "Tony the Ant" and Michael Spilotro, have become scenes in mob movies. "But nobody ever put it in one place before," says Johnson, who has done that with his new book, "A History of Violence:: An Encyclopedia of 1400 Chicago Mob Murders.1st Edition."

From the stabbing death of Harry Bush during the newspaper "circulation war" on July 6, 1900, to the Aug. 31, 2006, disappearance of 71-year-old Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo of Westmont, Johnson has used court documents, police records, newspaper accounts and 14 years of personal research to compile more than a century of suspected mob murders.

"You know what makes it so insidious? Their ability to get into places that affect every aspect of our lives," says Johnson, who notes cases where politicians, judges and police officers cooperated with mobsters. "Once you are into these guys, they own you."

Appearing in countless articles and TV shows as an expert on the mob, Johnson spent 25 years as a Chicago police officer and served as chief investigator for the Chicago Crime Commission before getting his doctoral degree in education. He's now an associate professor and program coordinator of law enforcement programs at Harper College.

The stereotype of the Chicago mob as the Italian Mafia known as Cosa Nostra is a myth, says Johnson, who says organized crime boasts a diverse collection of people, including many immigrants, who learned how to make money through illegal methods. The criminal groups formed partnerships and cut deals with each other, he says.

Of the 1,401 murders Johnson details, he lists only 278 as "solved," and the number of people convicted of those murders is even lower. "Just because they weren't charged doesn't mean it's not solved," says Johnson.

In teaching his "Organized Crime" class, Johnson tells the Harper students that reputed mob boss Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, who died in 1992 at the age of 86, lived the last years of his life just a short drive away, on Algonquin Road in Barrington Hills.

Student Jackie Cooney, 30, of McHenry wrote a research paper that ended up adding early 20th-century murders to Johnson's book.

"I logged 108 murders, and, of those murders, a portion of them were mob murders," says Cooney, who says she's been interested in the mob since she got her bachelor's degree in history from Roosevelt University in 2008. "I find it fascinating how people make alternative choices to provide for themselves and their families."

Studying A History of Violence: An Encyclopedia of 1,400 Chicago Mob Murdersto become a physical anthropologist while excelling in her art classes at Harper, Daniella Boyd, 21, of Wheeling responded to Johnson's request to draw a grisly scene for the cover of his book. "I did some research," says Boyd, who spent about 12 hours making a graphite drawing of the toe tag on the left foot of mobster Sam Giancana, who was gunned down in his Oak Park home in 1975.

The suburbs are home to some of the most infamous mob murders. On Feb. 12, 1985, the body of 48-year-old Hal Smith of Prospect Heights was found in the trunk of his Cadillac in the parking lot of an Arlington Heights hotel. Suspected of being a sports bookie who had run afoul of the mob, Smith was lured to the Long Grove home of his friend William B.J. Jahoda and was tortured, had his throat cut and was strangled. Jahoda, who became a friend of Johnson's before his death of natural causes in 2004, testified against the mob and helped send reputed mob leaders including Ernest Rocco Infelice and Salvatore DeLaurentis of Lake County to prison.

Another gambling operator who angered the mob, Robert Plummer, 51, was found dead in a car trunk in Mundelein in 1982. He was murdered in a Libertyville house already notorious before it was purchased by a mobster and turned into an illicit casino. In 1980, in a crime that went unsolved for more than 15 years, William Rouse, 15, used a shotgun to murder his millionaire parents, Bruce and Darlene Rouse, in a bedroom of the family home.

"Some people romanticize the mob," says Johnson, who adds that he hopes his book not only makes people recognize the heinous brutality of mobster killings, but might also help solve some of the remaining mysteries. "I hope they read my book and say, 'Yeah, it was 20 years ago, but I know who killed so-and-so.' Maybe we can still do something."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Kings of Organized Crime Said to Support Al-Qaeda

Although they are organized, the new mob in town doesn't look like the old one.

The new faces of organized crime in Chicago, according to law enforcement officials, are not necessarily from the traditional Italian mob. "Organized crime is not limited to one sort of ethnic group, it's an equal opportunity corrupter," said Jack Blakey, CCSA chief of special prosecutions.

Chicago's new kings of crime are more likely to hail from Eastern Europe, South America, Mexico or the Middle East- unlike their predecessors in the traditional Italian mob.

Their end game is the same: profits. They are making box loads of money- including cash seized in a recent Cook County raid.

Authorities say there are two primary schemes. The first is retail theft, but not large expensive items. The new mobs steal necessities such as bottled water- enough to fill a warehouse that was recently busted.

"Baby formula is always a hot product, razors, anything that everybody needs that is expensive...we have cases where they are bringing in tons and tons, literally tons of property and then shipping it in containers," said David Williams, Cook County Organized Crime Task Force.

Some stolen goods are sold in the US, and some are sent overseas- all undercutting legitimate Chicago merchants and driving up prices. The Assistant Cook County States Attorney, who leads a regional organized crime task force, says the loss of state sales tax hurts everyone. "In Illinois last year, approximately $77 million could have gone to firemen, policemen, hospitals, teacher," said David Williams, Cook County Organized Crime Task Force.

The second racket according to investigators is food stamp fraud. It involves loose networks of convenience stores that allow recipients of Illinois link cards to use them for cash. "It's not hard to cash in a link card, it's not hard... That's been going on forever but that's common in every neighborhood," said Eric Burns, Englewood resident.

In November, three suburban men were arrested and their South Side stores were shut down for allegedly taking kickbacks from cashing out link cards. "The store owner will swipe the card for a hundred dollars, as a ruse that they're purchasing groceries. They'll give the individual recipient $50 back and then keep $50 for their own profit& The government is the one that is funding the program, so these are our tax dollars that are flowing out of these stores for this fraud," said Williams.

In Al Capone's day, the flow was illegal liquor. From Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana through Joey the Clown Lombardo and current boss John DiFronzo, the traditional mob's rackets were labor union corruption, gambling and other lucrative public vices.

As a rule, victims were only those involved with the mob. This is not the case for the new kings of crime. "The ability of these groups to target some of our most vulnerable communities is something that we can't let stand," said Jack Blakey, CCSA chief of special prosecutions.

Fourty-six million Americans are on food stamps. For these new organized crime groups, that provides an almost endless cash stream.

Other rackets operated by the new kings of crime are vexing authorities: from pilfering ATMs to forgery and ID theft. With federal law enforcement focused on terrorism, Cook County prosecutors have taken the lead with their task force that now includes the Midwest.

There is a connection between terrorism and the new kings of crime. Authorities say some of their profits support Al-Qaeda.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reputed Mob Ties and Janitor Layoffs Have Chicago Aldermen Calling for O'Hare Maintenance Contract to be Rebid

Some Chicago aldermen said Tuesday that the city’s janitorial contract at O’Hare International Airport should be rebid, over concerns about the layoffs the contract would mean for union janitors, as well as the company’s ties to mob figures.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports about 300 union custodians who work for Scrub, Inc., are being pushed out, after the Emanuel administration awarded a new janitorial contract at O’Hare to United Maintenance, a non-union firm.

“It’s just not right, like 10 days before Christmas, you give somebody a letter saying that they’re going to be laid off. It’s just not right,” said janitor Jermaine Samples.

The current janitors’ union, SEIU Local 1, has said the jobs the company is offering have much lower salaries, and fewer benefits. But the company said Tuesday it has offered jobs to roughly 380 people, including more than 100 current O’Hare custodians who have filled out job applications.

It claimed the health insurance, dental and vision coverage, and pension plans it will provide are superior to those workers’ current benefits. For example it said its health plan has no limit on medical claims, and covers 70 to 90 percent of the costs for out-of-network claims, while current O’Hare janitors have a $400,000 limit on claims, and no coverage for out-of-network claims.

United also said some Scrub, Inc., employees who have been hired will be making $2 to $4.60 more per hour.

The city has said United will work with the current custodians to find them jobs, but there are no guarantees those workers will keep their jobs, and if they did, it would most likely be for much lower pay and fewer benefits.

Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd) was incensed that many veteran custodians at O’Hare are being laid off so close to the holidays. “What’s going on over at O’Hare … socially is irresponsible, because these men and women who have been laboring day in and day out are being let go right before the holiday season, and being replaced by employees who make less,” Munoz said. “Are we in favor of the bottom line that simply saves money and rushes to the bottom, and races and pushes contractors to pay the lowest wage possible? Or are we looking at a bottom line that helps middle-class Chicago be a better Chicago?”

The switch in janitorial companies at O’Hare means no holiday for 7-year janitor Mildred Rueda. “I mean, I’m grateful because I do have my family, but as far as celebrating, there isn’t any,” Rueda said. But United Maintenance said in a news release Tuesday that neither Rueda nor Samples has applied for a job with the company.

Munoz and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) are among a number of aldermen who have said the custodial contract at O’Hare should be rebid. “It’s not only very un-Chicagoan, but it’s very un-American to essentially bring in companies that decide that they’re going to cut wages in order to provide a more so-called efficient and fair contract,” Waguespack.

Aldermen have also raised concerns about the mob ties of some of top executives at the new custodial contractor.

Paul Fosco, the executive vice president of United Maintenance’s parent firm, United Service, served time in federal prison on mob racketeering charges, along with co-defendant and former Chicago mob boss Anthony Accardo. The Chicago Crime Commission has an entire file on Fosco. And United Maintenance owner Richard Simon was once business partners with reputed mob figure William Daddano, Jr.

“What we’ve seen is allegations about mob ties that is really unsettling for the people of Chicago, and for City Council members,” Waguespack said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the contract with United Maintenance, saying it was competitively bid.

Thanks to CBS2.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Reputed Ties of New O'Hare Airport Janitorial Contract Winner, United Maintenance, Grows

A high-ranking employee of the contractor who recently won a $99.4 million janitorial contract with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration once served a prison sentence after he was charged in the same corruption case as late Chicago mob boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.

Paul A. Fosco was convicted on racketeering charges in 1987, sentenced to a 10-year prison term and left federal prison in 1993, public records show. He now is an executive vice president of United Service Companies, according to his profile posted on the LinkedIn networking website.

United Service is owned by Richard Simon, a former Chicago Police officer who led the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau from 2002 to 2005. On Oct. 31, Emanuel’s administration chose one of United’s many companies, United Maintenance Co. Inc., to clean O’Hare International Airport for five years starting Dec. 15.

The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that Simon had partnered in yet another firm with William Daddano Jr., who was accused of organized-crime ties by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Chicago Crime Commission.

After shrugging off Simon’s business ties to Daddano this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked Wednesday to comment on Fosco. The mayor again defended the deal, which has faced heavy criticism from organized labor leaders. They say it will result in the dismissal of hundreds of union workers.

“Look, it was competitively bid,” Emanuel said, adding that United Maintenance would hire about 100 employees who currently clean O’Hare. “We will have a vigorous enforcement and make sure everybody lives by and appropriately stands by the law.”

Thanks to Dan Mihalopoulos.

Monday, September 24, 2012

October "There Goes the Neighbor Hood" Gangster Tour

John BinderThe Chicago Outfit, Mob historian and author of The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America), conducts the popular "There Goes the Neighbor Hood" tour of gangster history in Oak Park and River Forest. This exterior tour visits 15 houses in these two suburbs which were previously owned by major hoodlums, including Tony Accardo, Paul Ricca, Sam Giancana, "Tough Tony" Capezio, and "Machine Gun Jack" McGurn. John will discuss the criminal careers of the former owners, the interesting features of each home, the family's time there, and answer all questions from the audience. The tour lasts two hours and is a deep immersion into the history of organized crime in Chicago from Prohibition to the present day. It is by minibus with no walking required.

Date/Time/Details:
The bus departs from (and returns to) the Oak Park Visitor Center at 1010 Lake St. in Oak Park at 11:00 a. m. and 1:30 p. m. on October 14.  Please call the Visitor Center at 708-848-1500 (or www.visitoakpark.com) to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jesse Jackson Jr Called to Explain Ties to Reputed Mob Affiliated Union

In 1995 United States Congressman Mel Reynolds (D-IL), in the glorious tradition of Chicago Democrats, wound up in prison on corruption charges. There were also charges that the married Reynolds had an inappropriate relationship with an under-aged girl. Tsk. Tsk.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. was one of the candidates who threw his hat into the ring to fill the vacant seat left by Reynolds.

Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his job as a union “organizer” to run for Congress. Supposedly he “organized” hotel and restaurant employees through the National Rainbow Coalition, founded by his father, on behalf of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE).

HERE was one of the most politically powerful unions in Chicago. Its president, Edward Hanley was one of the most powerful and politically important men in Chicago. HERE and Edward Hanley were dominated, controlled, and owned by the Chicago Crime Syndicate.

Jackson’s fifty-six thousand dollar salary was paid by HERE. Reverend Jesse Jackson knowingly and willingly entered into a political partnership and alliance with a well-known notorious Mob union. The Mob union paid his son’s salary in exchange for “organizing,” whatever that is. Conveniently or coincidently, during the time Jackson was working for the union it was very publicly under fire by the government, again, for being dominated by the Mob.

Why would the good, upright, overly self-righteous reverend forge a political alliance and relationship with a notorious organized crime entity?

HERE was started, owned and operated by the Chicago Crime Syndicate. For over three decades the union had been continuously and publicly investigated for being controlled by organized crime.

Chicago Crime boss Tony Accardo and underboss Joey “Doves” Aiuppa owned HERE president, Edward Hanley, lock, stock, and barrel. HERE also had ties to the Gambino and Columbo crime families in New York City as well as La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia.

As far back as 1958 the McClellan Committee revealed that the Chicago Mob had infiltrated the Chicago restaurant industry through domination and control of its unions, especially HERE. Accardo and Aiuppa had total control over HERE for over forty years. HERE president Edward Hanley was alleged to have been hand picked by Accardo to run the union through Aiuppa.

In 1977, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that HERE was a classic example of organized crime's domination of a major labor union. HERE was investigated for ties to organized crime again in 1984. Testifying before the United States Senate, union president Hanley took the Fifth Amendment 36 times.

In 1985, the President's Commission on Organized Crime claimed that HERE was one of the four most corrupt unions in the United States.

In 1995, the year Jackson Jr. worked for them HERE was investigated for racketeering and corruption. They finally agreed to take on a federal court appointed monitor to clean up the union.

When questioned by the media over his ties to the Mob union, candidate Jesse Jackson Jr. could not remember where, when, or how he did “organizing” for the union. He could not even remember the name of the union president who paid his salary.

People who work for the Mob have a propensity to develop extremely bad memories.

“Though not being able to supply specifics, the younger Jackson said, 'I organized at hotels, I organized at picket lines around this country, organized workers and fought to raise the minimum wage.' 'We have a very mutual and a very cordial relationship,' he said of the partnership between the Rainbow Coalition and the hotel workers union. Later, he said that even if he had known about the union's questionable history, he would still have taken the money because it helped him improve the lives of working people.” (Chicago Tribune/John Kass) 

Even if he had known about the union being controlled by the mob he still would have taken their money? That is a startling admission. More astounding, he claimed he did not know he was being paid by the Mob. Everyone in Chicago with half a brain knew who controlled and operated HERE.

During a media candidate’s forum, when Jackson’s judgment over taking Mob money was questioned, “Jackson shot back that as a magna cum laude undergraduate and a graduate of the University of Illinois Law School, 'I don't think my judgment is questionable.'" (Chicago Tribune/John Kass)

Maybe not, but his intelligence, ethics, integrity, and morals were beyond questionable.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. said in an interview that working to help people get better wages and benefits was more important than HERE’s known Crime Syndicate control. The ends justify any evil means when it comes to social and moral justice, whatever those are.

What did the Mob get from the Jackson Family in exchange for the “political alliance and relationship” and Junior’s generous salary? The Chicago Mob is not exactly known for its altruistic tendencies or social proclivities. If they give they expect something more, way more in return. In effect, they own you.

That is the way it is and always has been. Anyone who thinks otherwise does not live on this planet.

Why is all this important? The missing without a trace congressman is running for reelection. Being the Chicago Machine candidate means Jackson does not have to do anything except stay missing. Jackson will be reelected. He will reappear on the day congressmen are sworn in. Maybe he will disappear immediately afterward.

It’s not like anyone will notice or care anymore.

Since we never vetted President Obama and others, we learned a very important lesson; it is extremely critical that every single candidate, especially incumbents, be thoroughly vetted.

What exactly did Jesse Jackson do in return for being a paid Mob union “organizer”? What did the Jackson Family get in return for selling their soul to the Mob? What did they give in return?

Who did Junior organize, where did he organize, how did he organize, what did he organize, and when did he organize? How many known Mob associates assisted him in his “organizing” efforts?

Or, as is more likely and typical, was he just paid for a Mob union no show job, kicking back part of his salary to the boys? That is the way mob union “organizing” jobs usually work.

There are more questions than answers. Jesse Jackson Jr. needs to explain his Mob ties.

As soon as we find him.

Thanks to Peter Bella.

Monday, April 16, 2012

“Mob Wives Chicago" Smears Italian Americans

 I’m a Chicagoan looking to join a public protest, and I’ve come up with a good one.

Not against NATO or bankers on La Salle Street, but against a TV show being filmed in Chicago. It’s called “Mob Wives Chicago,” another one of those insensitive, dumb things that pick on Italians -– stereotyping Italians as da Big Al Capone, or da “Big Tuna,” Tony Accardo. It’s wrong to make fun of ethnic minorities, to embarrass our neighbors or influence our children to think Italians are gangsters.

You want to stereotype Italians? Try Christopher Columbus and Galileo; Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo; Puccini and Verdi; Versace, Gucci and Armani; Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Rocky Marciano. How about Phil Cavaretta?  How about Ron Santo?

C’mon, you TV movie moguls. Get a life. Have some decency and respect. Before you finish filming “Mob Wives Chicago,” give it a wrap

 Perspective by Walter Jacobson.

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