The Chicago Syndicate: Tony Spilotro
Showing posts with label Tony Spilotro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Spilotro. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Las Vegas Mob Experience Lawsuit Grows More Bizzarre

The lawsuit over control of the Las Vegas Mob Experience has grown more bizarre, with new charges that the Mob Experience manager feared for his life after a notorious gangster’s son demanded return of his father’s artifacts.

Jay Bloom, developer of the tourist attraction, is headed for a showdown in court with Experience creditors.

The creditors charge Bloom looted the company before he signed away most of his equity in the Experience this summer – but Bloom says he still owns the company, that the current manager is in cahoots with certain creditors and that the manager and those creditors are the ones looting the company.

Friday’s hearing was called in Clark County District Court so Bloom could press his request that the current manager, Louis Ventre, be replaced with a neutral third party manager selected by Mob Experience secured creditors.

At the same time, creditors Vion Operations LLC and Strategic Funding Source Inc. – which are aligned with Ventre – will press their request that a special master be appointed to conduct a complete review of the Mob Experience books and that Bloom be ordered to stop claiming he owns a substantial part of Murder Inc., the parent company of the Experience at the Tropicana resort.

In their latest legal filing on Wednesday, Bloom and his attorney again denied that Bloom had hijacked the Mob Experience website, saying it was Ventre who was responsible for nonpayment of the web hosting company’s fee.

They also said Vion and Strategic Funding had submitted a "fabricated" email to the court as an exhibit attacking Bloom’s choice of a third party to manage the Experience.

Most interestingly, Bloom’s new filing says that in an email, "it appears Ventre indicated he was in fear for his life."

This related to efforts by Vincent Spilotro, son of Anthony Spilotro, to retrieve some of his father’s artifacts from the Mob Experience and to get paid as a Mob Experience consultant.

In an affidavit signed Monday in which Spilotro sides with Bloom in the dispute, Spilotro says that in December he sold some of his father’s artifacts to a Bloom company called The Mafia Collection for $125,000 with $62,500 down – and also was retained as a consultant that month and was to be paid $5,000 per month by the Mob Experience’s parent company Murder Inc.

Spilotro says in the affidavit he agreed to defer the payment of the $62,500 owed for the artifacts until The Mafia Collection was in a position to make that payment. The affidavit says that after Ventre took over the Mob Experience in July, Murder Inc. stopped paying his consulting fee and that Ventre repeatedly promised to pay him but failed to do so. Spilotro said in the document that during the past three months, he’s been paid only 10 percent of what’s due him.

Spilotro said that in August, Ventre told him to drive in from California and that he would be paid $1,500 plus receive certain artifacts – but when he arrived Ventre failed to pay him.

The affidavit says the Mob Experience offered him artifacts belonging to The Mafia Collection in lieu of consulting payments.

Spilotro says he took the items and listed them for sale on eBay, but then removed them from eBay upon learning "Ventre did not have the authority to distribute the Mafia Collection artifacts in satisfaction of Murder Inc.’s debt."

"I further learned that Ventre indicated to GC Global Capital (a creditor) that he was `in fear for his life.’ Such a position is absurd and, in fact, on the day I was there with my wife, I was there for hours socializing with Lou and the employees," Spilotro said in the affidavit.

This supposed threat to Ventre appeared to come from an email to Ventre indicating Vincent Spilotro was "becoming extremely aggressive in his demands."

Spilotro’s father – who was killed in a brutal mob beating and buried an Indiana corn field – was immortalized in the movie Casino by Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro, the sidekick to casino boss Sam "Ace" Rothstein (Robert De Niro).

Any suggestion Ventre was threatened is false, Bloom’s court filing said. "Spilotro, his wife and cousin drove in from California and spent hours with Ventre and the staff socializing and no threat was made to Ventre," Bloom’s filing said. "Not only did Ventre lie about being threatened, but Ventre also lied to Spilotro about his intent to pay him and about having the authority to disperse Mafia Collection artifacts."

Ventre, however, denied in an interview today that anyone has threatened him. "I’ve never been in fear for my life – not from Vincent Spilotro or anyone," Ventre said.

The bottom line is that for the Mob Experience, which remains open at the Tropicana despite the legal turmoil, Wednesday was business as usual.

That is, it was just another day of Bloom and Mob Experience creditors accusing each other of misrepresentations and looting the business.

Thanks to Steve Green



Monday, April 04, 2011

Entertainment and Family History Mixed at Las Vegas Mob Experience

Mobster Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, infamous for his brutality, once reportedly squeezed a man's head in a vice until his eyes popped out of their sockets.But when he wasn't carrying out brutal interrogations or fulfilling contract killings -- duties required of him as a made man for the mob -- he was playing the role of dutiful father.

Spilotro and other mobsters with a Las Vegas connection all had softer, gentler sides that have rarely been acknowledged, says Jay Bloom, founder and managing partner of the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana.

Bloom hopes the new attraction changes that by showing publicly the soft guy side that Spilotro, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky possessed.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. It is not to be confused with the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, popularly known as the Mob Museum, which is scheduled to open later this year in downtown Las Vegas.

The Mob Museum will concentrate more on the law enforcement perspective, says Michael Unger, chief executive officer of Eagle Group Holdings, the parent company of the Mob Experience, while "we will focus on the bad guys."

The "show-seum is a little bit entertainment, a little bit excitement and a little bit history all rolled together," Unger says. "We expose the human side of these men, if you will. Siegel was a great father. Same thing with Spilotro. They were good family men."

Several family members of the infamous men, including Millicent Siegel Rosen, daughter of Siegel; Spilotro's son, Vincent, and his widow, Nancy; Meyer Lansky II and Cythina Duncan, grandchildren of Lansky; and Giancana's grandson, Carl Manno, donated or loaned more than 1,500 artifacts to be displayed. Among them are Spilotro's baby shoes and his handguns; Siegel's home movies, furniture and love letters; and Lansky's golf clubs and personal diaries.

"It's quite a showcase," says 80-year-old Rosen. "People have been after me for years to do something about my father, but I never wanted to get involved in anything. But when I met Jay, his ideas were different. I was very impressed with the way he treated my father."

Visitors to the attraction will get to watch home movies shot by Siegel while learning about how he built the Flamingo and helped popularize Las Vegas as a vacation destination. He wouldn't like today's Vegas, Rosen adds. It would be much too corporate for his tastes.

Don't go in expecting to hear the whole story of the mob, though. The Mob Experience covers prohibition and gaming apart from the family history.

"The narrative they're telling seems to have some problems," says David Schwartz, director of University of Nevada, Las Vegas' gaming studies. "It seems to skip over some of the stuff organized crime did in America."

And though the artifacts may have historical value, it may be difficult to understand why, because many of them are out of context, Schwartz adds.

Attraction organizers chose to focus strictly on mob figures who played a role in the rise and spread of casinos, Unger says.

In addition to the artifacts, the Mob Experience offers a pseudo-mob "experience" in which guests can become a made man, a snitch, get whacked or have a shootout. At the ticket counter, guests give their names and some personal information in exchange for a mob nickname and a badge embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID.

The Mob Experience is divided into three acts: the immigration of the mob figures, the rise of the mob, and the decline and fall of the mob. A three-dimensional guide accompanies visitors through, offering facts and helping to navigate the mob. As a guest enters each area, computers sense the RFID badge and greet each person by his or her mob nickname.

Actors portraying various mob characters are situated throughout the 26,000-square-foot attraction and interact with guests. Your response to each character plays a role in your fate at the end, Bloom says.

Thanks to Sonya Padgett

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Museums Worse than the Mob?

Frank Cullotta knows having his character assassinated isn't the worst thing that can happen to a guy with his pedigree.

In his former line of work, names could hurt you, but it's the sticks, stones and bullets that do most of the real damage. Cullotta, the former Chicago Outfit hitman-turned-government witness, just received word he's depicted in less than flattering terms down at the Tropicana's new Mob Experience. Specifically, he says, the exhibit devoted to the life and death of his childhood friend Anthony Spilotro portrayed Cullotta's defection in a negative light.

On Monday, Cullotta tried not to weep openly and only briefly contemplated seeking therapy before thinking better of it. That plot line has already been used in "The Sopranos," and he probably didn't want to scare the psychologist. But that's the way it is these days in Las Vegas, where warring traditional mob factions appear to have been replaced by sparring mob museums. In this corner, wearing the black trunks, Jay Bloom's Mob Experience at the Trop. In that corner, wearing red trunks, the Oscar Goodman-inspired downtown Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob Museum.

The Mob Experience has been faster on its feet and secured the cooperation and memorabilia of members of a number of mob families along with the faces of a number of gangster-movie stars. The Mob Museum, conversely, is focusing on creating a historically accurate depiction of the battle between organized crime and law enforcement. It also is gathering big-ticket items such as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall and Albert Anastasia's last barber chair.

Cullotta, 72, could give a graduate seminar in the Chicago Outfit and its role in Las Vegas during Spilotro's era. He also knows something about making money from mob imagery, participating in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" and co-authoring his autobiography Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness, with Dennis Griffin. (Cullotta, Griffin, Henry Hill, Andrew DiDonato and Vito Colucci will sign books at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Royal Resorts on Convention Center Drive. Bring your own bulletproof vest.)

That's the challenge for reformed wiseguys, killers and other characters who used to carry shovels and rope in the trunks of their Lincolns. How do you go reasonably straight and still earn a living?

By telling and selling your story, of course.

So that's why Cullotta is keeping his sense of humor about getting the cold shoulder from the Spilotro family exhibit. Although, he reminds me, the worst thing Tony would have received from Cullotta's testimony was a prison stretch. It was Tony's supposed friends, headed by Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, who in 1986 murdered him and brother Michael and buried their bodies in an Indiana cornfield. "I didn't give him a death sentence," Cullotta says. "If he would have went to jail, he probably still would still be alive."

In case you're wondering, Cullotta is a cooperating witness for the downtown museum. He was interviewed by museum personnel for about four hours, he says. Although Cullotta figures his books will be on display in the gift shop, "I'm doing it for free. If you think you're going to make a million dollars doing this, you're kidding yourself." But he's not joking about the irony of living long enough to see the way Las Vegas is courting the mob imagery.

"Usually it's the mob making money off legitimate people," he says. "These are legitimate people making money off the mob. They're worse than the Outfit."

A Cullotta pal took one look at the Mob Experience and suggested Frank the former hitman sue for defamation. Cullotta just laughed.

"Sue? With my character and my reputation?" the mob survivor cracks. "Are you out of your mind?"

Thanks to John L. Smith


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mafia Princess Dethroned in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Mob Experience is pleased to announce that Carl Manno, grandson of infamous Chicago crime boss, Sam Giancana, and son of the self proclaimed Mafia Princess, Antoinette Giancana, has joined the project as a consultant representing the Giancana family.

Last week, the Las Vegas Mob Experience terminated its consulting agreement with Antoinette Giancana, daughter of Sam Giancana, citing her gross misconduct and breach of contract. Problems with the Princess however, were brewing for months before she was finally given the boot.

Ms. Giancana alienated all of the other "family" members involved in the project, as well as the operational staff, to the point that several months ago, being deemed too difficult to work with, she was instructed not to return to the company's corporate headquarters.

According to Jay Bloom, Managing Partner of the Mob Experience, "Ms. Giancana was always resentful of the fact that The Las Vegas Mob Experience highlighted numerous famous individuals related to the history of organized crime and the role they had in the building of Sin City. She wanted this attraction to be the Sam Giancana show, with her as the spokesperson and shining star."

Bloom went on to explain that the attraction is not about one person, "We are privileged to have the involvement of the family members of many relevant historical figures including Meyer Lansky, Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, Tony 'The Ant' Spilotro, Al Sachs, Jimmy 'Blue Eyes' Alo and Allen Smiley."

Mr. Manno, when asked about his mother's conduct stated "I have spent my life apologizing for my mother's erratic and unpredictable behavior, and I find myself having to do it again here."

Mr. Manno went on to say that he is "Excited to be a part of this extraordinary project at Tropicana Las Vegas, joining the other family members in bringing additional artifacts and personal stories about my grandfather."

They say, that in the Mob, one should never assume their status is secure because there is always someone waiting to take the place of the fallen.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience opened its doors to the public for previews on March 1, 2011, with its formal Grand Opening scheduled for March 29, 2011.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Growing Up the Son of Tony Spilotro

The only son of Tony Spilotro talks about what it was like growing up in the shadow of one of Chicago's most notorious mob bosses.

When Anthony "Ant" Spilotro walked into a room, he caused hearts to race and sometimes stop. At only 5'5", Spilotro's power wasn't from muscle; it was from an ability to intimidate and an unpredictable temper.

Hollywood tried to chronicle Spilotro's life in the movie "Casino." Now, his own family videos and an interview with his son offer a different take on these blood relatives.

This is what most people remember about Tony Spilotro's life -- it ended in a midnight grave. It was June 1986. After a horrific beating, vengeful mob bosses drove Spilotro and his brother Michael to an Indiana cornfield where they were buried.

"I just want people to understand that he wasn't this monster," Spilotro's only son Vince told the I-Team.

Vince Spilotro knows that rewriting his late father's life story will be difficult. His father was arrested 13 times before age 20; he was initiated as a full Chicago Outfit member at age 25 after authorities believe he committed his trademark torture killing, putting a victim's head in a vice until his eyeballs popped out. From 1971 to 1986, Tony Spilotro ruled Chicago Mob rackets in Las Vegas.

"I just wanted it to come out that he was a man, he did have family, just the human side of him, just tell the truth about it. Even if you're going to tell something bad, tell the truth about it. You know what I mean? You don't have to make up a whole bunch of stuff, " Vince Spilotro said.

It is unclear how many people Spilotro killed during his Outfit career because he was never convicted of murder, but Outfit investigators put the number at between 12 and 20.

"I mean, I take this home with me every night. I mean, I've been taking this home for 20 years," said Vince Spilotro.

Now he is sharing it with the I-Team, and soon Vince Spilotro will be sharing it with the paying public.

Opening next month at the Tropicana Hotel, in the city limits his father once ruled, the interactive Mob Experience will feature Spilotro family memorabilia including baby shoes and pictures -- and guns and bullets.

"I knew what he did," said said Vince Spilotro. "He was just, you know, just a loving father."

And Spilotro family videos that show Tony "Ant" as Tony "Santa." At family parties, including Vincent's birthday's as a boy, where sometimes tony and the boys would play cards off to the side. On family trips to Disneyland, where even a budding Outfit boss waited in line.

GOUDIE: "Do you think your father saw you as someone who would eventually replace him?
SPILOTRO: No, not at all. Here's what happened. In the beginning he didn't, it was all school, you have to do this, you have to do that. In the end he was, he had quadruple bypass, he was getting tired. He was sharing more. I don't know if that's grooming me, but it was still, school, school, school."

When museum plans were unveiled last summer, Tony Spilotro's reclusive widow Nancy was also in attendance. Their family treasures will be on display with some from Chicago boss Sam Giancana and Vegas founder Bugsy Seigel.

GOUDIE: "What would your father think about you selling family memorabilia for a profit.
SPILOTRO: He wouldn't like it. It's a two-way street. I think he'd like that I'm telling the truth, selling it for a profit sounds a little seedy...These people are going to protect it, they're going to display it a little more classy than if someone bought it on eBay."

For the Spilotro family, it is a chance to tell inside stories about the days growing up in their Las Vegas home as the son of a Mob boss.

Spilotro said, "I helped when I was a kid, at 18 years old, helped design this room, at our house, it was a place called the 'Security room.' There was a steel door, which was covered with wallpaper, you never knew it was steel. A solid door with the frame. The walls were all insulated with concrete and stuff. I mean, you couldn't get in that room."

And after almost 25 years, the museum and this interview, are a chance to come to terms with the past.

"I just like to tell everybody that he's just a man that grew up, raised a family and got caught up in some things that maybe he shouldn't have, but he lived it the way he lived it," said Spilotro.

The founder of the Mob Experience museum says he isn't setting out to glorify the Chicago Outfit. He says that showing the living contradictions that were Chicago Mob bosses is aimed at giving the public new insight about a significant American criminal group.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mafia Memorabilia War Heats Up

There is a Chicago mob war underway, but it is unlikely to result in bloodshed. But the fight is actually 1,800 miles away from Chicago.

From 1955, when the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley began, through today with his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago has shunned any official recognition of the city's gangland past. But Las Vegas -- for decades controlled by the Chicago Outfit -- is embracing its rich organized crime history.

With not one but two Mob museums planning to open this year, a fight for Chicago Mob memorabilia is now on.

On one end of the famous Las Vegas strip will be the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob museum. It is Mayor Oscar Goodman's $50 million pet project in a former federal building, much of it funded by tax money. After countless delays, the official Mob museum is set to open late this year.

At the other end of the strip -- and in direct competition -- is the privately owned and operated Mob Experience. It will fire the first shot with preview parties next week and a grand opening in early March, with interactive holograms of Hollywood Mob figures leading tourists through the exhibits.

"We are not setting out to glorify the Mob by any mean, and nobody in Las Vegas is looking to glorify the mob. But at the same time we are not looking to vilify these people either. I think in the process of collecting these artifacts and being exposed to the stories of the family members, we've been given the greatest Mob story never told," said Jay Bloom, Mob Experience partner.

The late Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana is among those depicted in exhibits. His daughter Antoniette is among the family members of major Mob figures hired as paid contributors to the Mob Experience. And she is happy to deliver her father's glory days in Vegas.

"It was glorious. I wished he were here now. We were treated like kings, queens and princesses and princes. There was nothing that Sam needed or wanted in this town, it was given to him gladly with love and respect," said Antionette Giancana, Mafia princess.

The Mob Experience will feature memorabilia from the Giancana family along with personal mementos from Bugsy Seigel, Meyer Lansky and others, including Chicago's long-time Mob emissary to Las Vegas Anthony "Tony Ant" Spilotro.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reviewing the History Behind Famous Mob Nicknames

A colorful nickname comes with the job when you are a reputed Chicago crime boss, often whether you like it or not.

The trial of Michael "Big Mike" Sarno is getting underway in federal court in Chicago, with prosecutors arguing that the 6-foot-3-inch, 300-pound Sarno wasn't just imposing because of his size, but because he was the big man behind a violent mob jewelry theft and illegal gambling ring.

Imposing aliases have captivated the public and aggravated mobsters since the days of Al "Scarface" Capone, a fact that apparently was too much for one prospective juror. The juror, a suburban businessman, told U.S. Judge Ronald Guzman he would be biased by the repeated use of nicknames during the trial. So Guzman sent him home.

Defense attorney Michael Gillespie said he's not worried about his large client's nickname, which is pretty mild for an alleged mobster. "There's nothing nefarious about that nickname," Gillespie said. "But I do think (federal prosecutors) put the nickname in there for a reason. They could've just charged him as 'Michael Sarno.'"

A big appetite is a more benign way to get a pet name than, say, Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, the former reputed mob kingpin who earned his sobriquet for beating people with baseball bats. The story goes that after hearing of one such beating, Capone himself said, "That guy, (Accardo), he's a real Joe Batters." Throughout his life, everyone called Accardo "Joe," said Gus Russo, author of "The Outfit."

"They started to call (Accardo) 'Big Tuna' in the press, but no one ever called him that," said Russo. Mobsters' nicknames often were generated by the press or FBI agents eager to antagonize their targets, a favorite tactic of longtime Chicago FBI chief William Roemer. "(Roemer) was the one that referred to (Outfit Vegas boss) Anthony Spilotro as 'The Ant,'" Russo said. "That was (Roemer's) way of infuriating these guys."

Attorney Joseph Lopez said the press hung the nickname "The Breeze" on his loan-sharking client Frank Calabrese Sr. "That's a media nickname. No one ever called him that. He was 'Cheech,'" said Lopez. "Cheech is 'Frank' in Italian. It's a neighborhood thing. These guys get their nicknames like anyone else, as young kids in the neighborhood."

Of course, former Lopez client Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiaramonti was known for attacking juice-loan delinquents with a hatchet, the attorney acknowledged. "Hatchet earned that nickname," said Lopez, noting that jurors heard Chiaramonti strangle an informant — who was wearing a wire at the time — during a trial in the 1990s. "I called him Tony."

When reputed mobsters deny, or take offense to, their nicknames, it may be because they haven't heard them until someone plays them tapes of a wiretap. Wiretaps in Sarno's case will show that some of his lieutenants often called their boss "Fat Ass" behind his back. Not a good career move in most jobs, and a potentially deadly one in The Outfit.

"These are not guys you might want to call by a nickname to their face," said Markus Funk, one of the lead prosecutors in the Family Secrets trial that featured defendants Frank "the German" Schweihs; Paul "the Indian" Schiro; and Joseph Lombardo, who was listed with three nicknames: "the Clown," "Lumbo" and "Lumpy."

U.S. attorney's office policy is to include nicknames in an indictment only when the monikers are used in wiretaps or correspondence, said former prosecutor Chris Gair. However, modern mobsters are so paranoid about wiretaps and FBI surveillance that they seldom even risk using a nickname, Gair said. Their coded euphemisms get so vague, often it's clear the mobsters can barely carry on a conversation.

"Instead of a name or a nickname, they'll say something like 'You know that guy down by Grand and Ogden (avenues)?' 'You mean the guy who stands outside the grocery?' And the circumlocutions are so obscure, it's obvious they don't know who the other guy's talking about," Gair said. "But they're so paranoid, they still won't use a name."

Gair, for the record, said he seldom used nicknames in cases he handled.

"I would almost never put (nicknames) in an indictment. FBI agents and IRS guys have a nickname for everybody," he said. "For most guys, they use nicknames the way you or I do among friends."

Thanks to Andy Grimm

More Mob Nicknames

Monday, April 05, 2010

Will Calabrese Family Secret Stash Provide Insight into the Mob?

Nearly $730,000 in cash, about 1,000 pieces of jewelry and loaded handguns found hidden alongside recording devices in a mobster's suburban home show there are still plenty of mysteries to unravel about the notorious Chicago Outfit.

The discovery in a secret compartment behind a family portrait in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s home — a year after the massive Operation Family Secrets trial sent Calabrese and several others to prison — may trigger a fresh look at everything from unsolved shootings to a jewel theft ring once run by the former Chicago Police chief of detectives.

"I would say it's a treasure trove, really," James Wagner, one-time head of the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago and the Chicago Crime Commission.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice would not comment extensively on the investigation or search of Calabrese's home in Oak Brook, which was revealed in documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. But he said investigators would run ballistics tests on the weapons and attempt to trace the jewelry and track down owners.

Calabrese, 71, was one of several reputed mobsters convicted last year in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 decades-old murders. He was blamed for 13, sentenced to life in prison and was one of four defendants ordered to pay more than $24 million, including millions in restitution to the families of murder victims. Tuesday's search was tied to that order. But the discovery could mean learning even more about the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit.
Wagner said investigators will try to determine ownership of the seven loaded guns by tracking serial numbers and testing for ballistics matches on homicides and shootings nationwide.

As for the jewelry, some pieces still in display boxes or bearing store tags, Wagner suggested several likely investigative avenues. The first could be the Outfit-connected jewelry-heist ring run by William Hanhardt, the former Chicago Police chief of detectives. Hanhardt is in prison after pleading guilty to leading a band of thieves that stole $5 million in jewelry and fine watches in the 1980s and 90s. One of Calabrese's co-defendants, Paul Schiro, was sentenced to prison in 2002 for being part of Hanhardt's ring. And a witness at the Family Secrets trial testified that Hanhardt collected $1,000 a week and a new car every two years in return for making sure mobsters were not caught.

Wagner also said that before the murdered body of Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro was found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, he was not only the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas but also operated a jewelry store there. At the time of his death, he was under investigation for a number of jewelry thefts, Wagner said. Investigators may try to determine if any jewelry from those thefts found their way to Calabrese's home, Wagner said. But he also noted that tracing the diamonds, particularly the loose ones, is a long shot. "I'm not aware of any ability to trace those," he said.

Still, the newly found recording devices — suction cups use to "tap" into telephone conversations and several microcassettes — could prove particularly intriguing. One had the name of a convicted Outfit member written on it.

"This could be important evidence for them, evidence against other people involved in some of the same activities" as Calabrese and the others who were convicted last year, said former assistant U.S. attorney Joel Levin.

The tapes could contain the kind of code words that came out during the Family Secret trial, Wagner said.

During the trial, Calabrese's son, Frank Calabrese Jr., acted almost as an interpreter for jurors listening to secretly recorded tapes of conversations between the two. He told jurors, for example, that when his father was telling him to pick up "recipes" he was telling him to collect money and when he told him to "keep 10 boxes of Spam ham," he was instructing his son to keep $1,000 for himself.

Wagner does not know what is on the tapes. But if they feature Calabrese Sr.'s voice, "The possibility exists that he used code terminology on the tapes and I would expect them to reach out for (Frank Calabrese Jr.) for interpretation again," he said.

Calabrese's attorney, Joseph Lopez, said he doesn't know who stashed the items, saying Calabrese has not lived in the home since the mid-1990s when he was sent to prison for another conviction. Nor, he said, did he have any idea who was on the recordings.


Thanks to Don Babwin

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Crime and Corruption in Present day Las Vegas: An Interview with Steve Miller

John L. Smith, a columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal, once described Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of Las Vegas strip club the Crazy Horse Too, as an “affable wiseguy, high-rolling gambler, and former soft touch for politicians.” The one-time strip club owner has been described as a friend of Las Vegas’ current mayor, Oscar Goodman, as well as other authorities in Sin City. Steve Miller, a prolific journalist and well known figure in Las Vegas began investigating Rizzolo in 1999, when the strip club owner managed to obtain approval for the expansion for his business, even when he’d already implemented the changes and opened to the public. Casino Online spoke to the journalist about crime, corruption and celebrity status in Sin City.

Miller first began investigating Rizzolo when the strip club owner opened a new, extended bar “without a building permit; additional parking spaces; traffic plan; or certificate of occupancy from the fire department”. To still be legally allowed to open any sort of public entertainment venue without any of these requirements would usually be impossible and Miller became interested about just how Rizzolo had obtained the permission of officials such as former Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald. For the past eleven years, Miller has documented the exploits of Rizzolo and his council cohorts (McDonald wasn’t re-elected in 2003 and it has since been discovered he was receiving kickbacks of $5,000 a month from Rizzolo) and has collected his findings on www.AmericanMafia.com/Inside_Vegas/Inside_Vegas_Archive.html. In 2000, Rizzolo attempted to sue Miller for libel, but undaunted, Miller knew that the truth would prevail. However, as he told us, Rizzolo hasn’t left him alone: Over the past few years, the journalist has “received several written death threats and shared them with the police and FBI”.

Miller soon found that Rizzolo’s influence and danger to Las Vegas citizens extended far beyond his ability to wine and dine councilmen though. In October 2001, Kirk Henry had his neck broken by a bouncer at Rizzolo’s strip club, over an $80 bar tab. Henry, who has been paralysed since the attack, sued Rizzolo for attempted murder. Rizzolo denied that Henry had suffered a beating from one of his employees, suggesting in a letter to the Las Vegas Tribune that Henry merely “tripped”. Five years later, the Las Vegas Attorney’s Office revoked Rizzolo’s liquor license and, as part of a plea deal, Rizzolo and his employees “admitted to tax fraud, conspiracy to participate in racketeering and seeking to extort payment from club patrons”. The Las Vegas City Council also issued Rizzolo with a $2.192 million fine and, as part of his plea agreement, Rizzolo vowed to pay the Henry's $10 million in compensation. In 2007, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but since being released, the Henry’s have received just $1 million from Rizzolo's insurance company (not from Rizzolo personally) and are still waiting on the remaining millions owed to them. When asked why Rizzolo has managed to avoid paying the couple what he owes them (some would argue he owes them a lot, lot more) Miller suggested that he has “long believed Rizzolo has bought protection over the years and that Mr. Henry's case is being stalled by those subservient to Rizzolo until Henry either dies or settles for pennies on the dollar”.

Critics have suggested that Rizzolo’s connections have meant that the former club owner has managed to steer clear of major punishment. When you consider that Mayor Oscar Goodman used to be employed as his legal representative, it could be suggested that Rizzolo’s influence is far-reaching. Miller alleges that Goodman still has links to Rizzolo, suggesting that “Goodman, through his son's and business partner's law firms, is still representing mob figures including Rizzolo.” It may seem odd that voters would elect a man who’s been heavily involved with mob figures such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, as well as Rick Rizzolo, but Miller believes Las Vegas residents just aren’t taking their politics seriously. Miller proposes that Vegas citizens “often vote for those with the highest name recognition like Goodman”. Miller, clearly jaded by the dirty politics of his city, suggests he has witnessed “time and again the stupidity of the average Las Vegas voter with who they continue to elect to public office, then treat the politician like a rock star afterwards, no matter how crooked the elected official may become.” It should be made clear that while Miller has his doubts about Goodman, the mayor has been credited with regenerating the city and has been described by Ed Koch, a journalist at The Las Vegas Sun, as a “stickler for parliamentary procedure”.

When asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s plans to open the “Mob Museum”, a forthcoming attraction in Las Vegas which will document “organized crime and law enforcement as each confronted the other”, it’s obvious that Miller sees the exhibition as merely a vanity project for the mayor. The journalist proposes that he’s ashamed “of having to live in a town (Miller makes it clear that Las Vegas hasn’t matured enough to be called a city) that would take public funds to glamorize the former (and current) clients of a mob lawyer-turned-mayor. The Mob Museum will do nothing to attract new, clean, high tech industry to Las Vegas, and will serve to further embarrass local residents who have long tried to show a better face for our town.”

While those of us outside of Las Vegas may see the mob as part of the city’s dark past, for Miller and others campaigning to clean up corruption, it’s still a daily part of their lives. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is Miller’s admission that casinos in Las Vegas now “mainly serve as drug money laundries for the mob” and “condone the use of massage parlors and escort services because such enterprises discourage gamblers from leaving the tables for more than an hour or so.” While the term, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may seem to most of us a reference to losses in a casino and perhaps over-indulgence when it comes to alcoholic refreshments, for Miller, the phrase holds much darker connotations.

Courtesy of CasinoOnline.co.uk

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where Were the Spilotro Brothers Killed?

For 23 years, it's been a mystery just where Chicago mob boss Tony Spilotro and his younger brother, Michael, were killed.

CBS 2's John "Bulldog" Drummond got the very first look at a home in unincorporated Bensenville where neighbors and others believe the Spilotros may have met their violent end.

No, the killing of the infamous Spilotro brothers didn't happen the way it was depicted in the movie "Casino." They were not beaten in an Indiana cornfield and buried alive.

Instead, the Spilotros met their demise in the basement of a home in unincorporated Bensenville, where they had been lured to their deaths with a promise of career advancement.

The brothers had worn out their welcome within the Chicago Outfit.

On June 14, 1986, Tony and Michael Spilotro met mob lieutenant Jimmy "The Little Guy" Marcello at a motel parking lot in Schiller Park.

The brothers got into Marcello's car in what amounted to a death ride. The Spilotros, however, were concerned about treachery. Michael told his wife, "If we aren't back by nine o'clock, something very wrong has happened."

The federal government's key witness, Nick Calabrese, testified in the "Family Secrets" trial that he was waiting as Marcello drove the car into an attached garage.

Ed Muniz, who bought the home in question in 2000, gave Drummond a tour of the house, where neighbors and friends say the Spilotros were slain.

"You could just see the layout of the house was perfect" and secluded for the Spilotro killings, said one acquaintance of organized crime figures, who asked that his identity be concealed.

It's not certain if Muniz's home is the location where the Spilotros were killed. But it's understood the fatal beatings occurred in a basement in the same area.

Marcello led the two brothers down to the basement. By the time they got into the cellar fists were flying; so were the knees. The Spilotros were met by a host of their former colleagues. They were beaten unmercifully. Tony Spilotro asked if he had a chance to say a prayer. The killers said no.

Although Muniz has his doubts about whether his home was the scene of the slayings, friends and family are concerned that something terrible happened in the basement.

"I had a friend who went down there, and he got a really weird aura," the owner said. "To my daughters, it kind of creeps them out a little bit."

Even his next-door neighbor -- now deceased -- was haunted by goings-on at the house.

Was this the house or not? Calabrese, the federal witness, couldn't find it for the feds.

CBS 2 shared its information with the FBI. Agents indicated they'll be looking into it.

Thanks to John Drummond

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Widow of Mob Associate Linked to Illinois State Senator, James DeLeo

Illinois state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) -- who has made public statements questioning the existence of the Chicago mob -- was credited by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office with trying to help the widow of one of Chicago's most infamous slain mobsters.

The Northwest Side lawmaker is listed in a secret hiring database the then-governor's aides kept as the political sponsor for Anne Spilotro, the widow of murdered mob associate Michael Spilotro.

She's among 146 "recommended" job candidates linked to DeLeo by Blagojevich's office, though it isn't clear for what job.

Thirty-nine of them wound up being hired or promoted, according to the records, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, making DeLeo one of the top go-to guys at the Statehouse for jobs inside the Blagojevich administration.

"There's names on there I've never recognized," DeLeo said when shown copies of the job lists bearing his name. "I don't even know where they came from, who hired them. I have no idea who most of those people are.

"It makes me angry people's names are on a list with my name coded in there [and] that I don't even recognize any these names."

DeLeo said he knew Anne Spilotro but had no idea why she was on his jobs list. "Would I remember that name? Would I remember that name?" DeLeo repeated. "I'd remember that name. I would remember that name."

Michael Spilotro's brother, Anthony Spilotro, was once the Chicago crime syndicate's Las Vegas boss. The bodies of the brothers were found buried in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield after they were beaten to death in a 1986 mob hit.

In 2007, Anne Spilotro testified in the landmark Operation Family Secrets mob trial that she felt ripped off by DeLeo and another investor who bought her business in the late 1980s, after her husband was killed.

Spilotro, an employee of the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation since 1998, said she never discussed changing jobs or a promotion with DeLeo. "I haven't even talked to him for years," she said.

Another name on DeLeo's jobs list is the daughter of Marty Gutilla, managing partner of Tavern on Rush, the bar DeLeo co-owns with Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and others.

Shauna Gutilla Kelley, a $99,924-a-year division head for the Illinois Commerce Commission, was hired by Blagojevich's administration in August 2003. Since then, her salary has risen 59 percent, state records show.

DeLeo denied persuading Blagojevich's administration to hire or promote her -- though he acknowledged recommending Kelley for a state job "two administrations ago," under now-imprisoned former Gov. George Ryan.

Thanks to Dave McKinney

Sunday, September 20, 2009

John DiFronzo, Reputed Chicago Mob Boss, Connected to Two Constuction Companies That Receive Substantial Government Payments

It’s called Omerta – the code of silence. It’s an old world Mob term that still applies here in modern-day Chicago. And when we started asking about two companies tied to the Mob, we saw it in action.

“Will you get the hell out of here?” one woman yelled when we asked. “Jesus Christ!”

“We just want to know who runs the business,” FOX Chicago investigator Dane Placko replied.

“None of your damned business!”

“D & P Construction” and “JKS Ventures” in Melrose Park are family-run businesses. The family is headed by John DiFronzo, the 81-year-old reputed boss of bosses of the Chicago Outfit.

Former FBI agent Jim Wagner spent his career busting the mob. Now, the head of the Chicago Crime Commission says the businesses are being run by convicted felons. When Dane Placko showed Wagner our video of the business owner, Wagner said he looked like the John DiFronzo he remembered: “He’s actually remained in very good shape for a man his age.”

Back in the day, John DiFronzo earned his nickname “No Nose” when a shard of glass clipped his nose during a gun battle with police. In the historic “Family Secrets” mob trial, a government turncoat testified that DiFronzo took part in the murders of mobsters Michael and Anthony Spilotro, who were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield. He was named in open court, but DiFronzo has never been charged with the crime.

FOX Chicago investigator Dane Placko spent several days over the summer watching John DiFronzo going in and out of D & P Construction – sometimes spending hours inside. When we finally talked to him, he appeared to be right at home.

"What do you do for D & P Construction and JKS?" Placko asked.

"Me? Nothing. Nothing," DiFronzo replied.

"Well we see you here quite often,” Placko continued.

"It's just my brother. It's my brother."

"Peter?" Placko asked.

"Yes, that's my family,” said DiFronzo.

"Who owns D & P?"

"His wife I think."

Josephine DiFronzo signs her name as the owner of the business. When Placko asked whether Mrs. DiFranzo was in, people at the business did not seem happy.

"Go away. Don't worry about who's here,” said one woman.

"They're not here. Go away," said a man.

Ultimately, FOX Chicago News never saw Josephine Spilotro at the company’s headquarters on the Northwest side. She stayed at their multi-million dollar home in Barrington, while her husband Peter went to work.

Peter DiFronzo also is reputedly a made member of the Chicago Outfit. And we saw Joseph DiFronzo, the youngest brother, who just got out of federal prison after he was caught running a massive indoor marijuana farm. When he arrived at D & P headquarters driving his brother’s car, we approached him to ask some questions.

That’s when a woman on the property told DiFronzo to leave the property rather than talk to us. “Go, go, go,” she yelled at him through the closed windows of DiFronzo’s Chrysler 300.

No one wants to talk about it, but the DiFronzo family clearly has a keen sense of business. Trucks hauling gravel, Dumpsters and fancy Cadillacs pass through the gates all day long. And millions of your tax dollars help keep it going.

"A basic rule of government and politics in the United States of America is you do business with reputable companies,” says Andy Shaw of Chicago’s Better Government Association. “You don't do business with gangsters, you don't do business with mobsters. You don't do business with people with a long record of felony convictions. You don't do that.”

Well, it turns out they do that in Bellwood, Stone Park, Norridge, Harwood Heights, Schiller Park and River Grove.

Suburbs and government agencies which have made payments to D&P Construction and JKSS Ventures since 2001 from the Freedom Of Information Act:

Bellwood: $1,013,295
Stone Park: $61,052
Schiller Park: $79,670
Franklin Park: $1,586,722
Elmwood Park: $787,462
Leyden Township: $59,218
River Grove: $384,416
Cook Co. Forest Preserve: $32,212
Melrose Park: $1,088,041
Stone Park: 61,021
Harwood Heights: $300
Norridge: $1,300
Oak Park: $7,497
Elmhurst: $8,640
Northlake: $75,556

Thanks to Dane Placko

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Family Secrets Jury Deliberations Were Systematic, Often Contentious

The anonymous jury that decided the Family Secrets case was exhausted.

After methodically working through stacks of evidence to convict four mob figures and a former Chicago police officer of racketeering conspiracy, jurors had become bogged down during a second round of deliberations.

For the first time in three months, personality conflicts flared and jurors snapped at one another as they tried to decide if the four mobsters could be blamed for 18 gangland slayings stretching back decades.

"There were times when we all looked out the window for a while and no one talked to each other," one juror recalled.

Two years after the landmark Family Secrets mob trial gripped Chicago with its lurid details of mob mayhem, jurors who sat in judgment have finally broken their silence.

Two of the jurors -- a man and a woman -- spoke last week to a Tribune reporter at a Loop restaurant, insisting their identities remain secret out of continued concern for their safety.

Even two years after the summerlong trial in 2007, few of the jurors know the names of one another, they said. Their identities had been publicly concealed to protect them from possible retaliation by the Chicago syndicate and to shield them from the news media.

Instead, jurors addressed one another by nicknames. Some took on names of characters in the trial, while others won monikers that might have been passed on by the mob itself. A tall juror became "Shorty" and another was called "Puzzles" because he often sat solving them during trial breaks.

As they began their deliberations, jurors pored over their notes -- one juror filled 16 pads of paper -- and sorted through carts of prosecution evidence -- documents, photos and even ski masks worn by hit men.They wrote questions on large "post-it" notes and stuck them to the wall. When they ran out of space, jurors took down decorative pictures to make more room for their notes.

The two jurors said the panel began the initial deliberations by deciding whether a criminal enterprise known as the Chicago Outfit existed. Then they considered the alleged role of each of the defendants they had spent months staring at from the jury box.

"I found them all to look mild-mannered and pleasant and grandfatherly," the female juror said of defendants James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul "the Indian" Schiro, and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, the ex-Chicago cop.

The man said most of the jurors began to figure out the importance of the trial after hearing about the infamous murders of mobster Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, whose bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

The jurors said the first round of deliberations went smoothly. If anyone was uncertain, others would calmly go back over the testimony, according to the two. The evidence was strong, they said, and jurors took four days to convict all five defendants on a host of counts, voting by a show of hands.

The jury was surprised, though, to find out that their work was not over after three months, the two said.

They again placed notes on the wall, building a chart with the 18 murder victims on one side and the four mobsters on trial across the top. They placed check marks by the defendant's name if they felt he could be held responsible for a particular murder.

"There was a lot more talking and a lot more disagreement," the female juror said. "People were passionate about Round 2."

The jurors said the panel delved more deeply into the centerpiece of the prosecution case -- the testimony of mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese. The former hit man admitted committing 14 murders himself and linked the four mobsters -- including his own brother -- to many of the gangland killings.

To some jurors, Calabrese was a tortured man who calmly named names as he recounted murders he was forced to commit with other Chicago Outfit members, but others on the jury wouldn't rely on his word alone to find blame in a killing. "Fundamentally, Nick was himself just like one of those guys in the room," the female juror said. "Some people just weren't able to get past it."

The result, the jurors said, were strained arguments and frazzled tempers.

The male juror was among the leaders who thought Calabrese was believable because other evidence corroborated his testimony. He recalled one instance when Calabrese fought tears on the witness stand as he recounted how an attempt to blow up the car of a businessman targeted by the mob almost resulted in killing the man's wife and child. "That was either the best acting job ever or somebody who's facing some serious demons," the juror said.

The jury wound up finding Lombardo, Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. responsible for 10 of the murders, but deadlocked on the other eight slayings. The two jurors said the jury deadlocked on murders that relied only on the word of Nicholas Calabrese.

The jury found Marcello responsible for the Spilotro killings, but it was close, they said. Calabrese testified Marcello drove him to a house where the brothers had been lured by the promise of mob promotions and helped beat them to death in the basement.

Calabrese had alone put Marcello at the murder scene, but the jurors said there was just enough evidence to buttress his account. Relatives of the Spilotros had testified that Marcello called their home the day the brothers were killed and that Michael Spilotro worried enough about the meeting to have left his jewelry at home. But there were discrepancies in the government evidence, the jurors noted. Calabrese had put a mobster at the murder scene who was actually under FBI surveillance at the time, making his presence there impossible. But the jurors said they chalked it up to a memory lapse and moved on, confident they had made the right decision.

The jurors said they weren't surprised to see Marcello, Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr. each sentenced to life in prison this year. Both said they supported the controversial 12-year prison sentence that U.S. District Judge James Zagel imposed on Nicholas Calabrese.

The male juror said he thought the judge had done a good job explaining his decision, even though some family members of victims found the sentence unfair. No one would dispute that Calabrese was a killer, he said. "You have to look at what he was able to bring forward on all of this -- he gave people answers," the juror said. "But I'm glad I didn't have to make that call."

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mob War Ready to Erupt in Las Vegas?

In one corner is the 74-year old daughter of legendary Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana whose turf once included Sin City.

In the other corner is the beefy mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, who was once the defense lawyer for the Chicago Mob's top emissary in Vegas.

At stake are future tourist dollars once Goodman and Antoinette "Mafia Princess" Giancana open competing crime syndicate museums.

According to "Vegas Confidential" columnist Norm Clarke, Ms. Giancana "was in Las Vegas over the weekend for meetings with backers of the museum, which is planned for a Strip location. It would compete with a $50 million downtown mob museum being pushed by Mayor Oscar Goodman. She's partnering with local investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Strip properties for their venue."

The quirky Giancana, who wrote a book about growing up as the daughter of a Chicago Outfit boss, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that "There would be tremendous foot traffic. I think it's going to be dynamite" she said. Her father was cut down by mob bullets in 1975 as he cooked a late-night snack in his Oak Park basement apartment.

Ms. Giancana claims to be moving to Las Vegas this summer to personally oversee the project. Clarke reports that "Giancana arrived with two beefy bodyguards for a business dinner Saturday at Capo's on West Sahara Avenue. She has asked Capo's owner Nico Santucci, a Chicago native, to design the Giancana room for the exhibit, which will include the same furniture that was in the family home the night her father was killed while frying Italian sausage and peppers."

The exhibit is "going to be a first," Giancana said. Bloom, she said, is "bringing in millions of dollars (worth of stuff) from various different (crime) families that have never, ever been seen" by the public.

Mobologists believe that Chicagoan Anthony "Ant" Spilotro whacked her father in the June twilight 34-years ago. Spilotro became the Outfit's top guy in Las Vegas. The Ant's numerous criminal cases were deftly handled by smooth-talking defense lawyer Oscar Goodman. Long after Spilotro himself was murdered and buried in an Indiana cornfield with his slain brother, Mr. Goodman was elected mayor of Las Vegas.

One of Mayor Goodman's top priorities has been a mob museum, now under construction near his city hall office. The $50 million tourist attraction could open as early as next year.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Antoinette "The Mafia Princess" Giancana To Open Mob Museum in Las Vegas

The "Mafia Princess" is moving to Las Vegas to help open a mob-themed exhibit.

Antoinette Giancana, daughter of murdered Chicago mob chief Sam Giancana, was in Las Vegas over the weekend for meetings with backers of the museum, which is planned for a Strip location. It would compete with a $50 million downtown mob museum being pushed by Mayor Oscar Goodman.

She's partnering with local investors Jay Bloom and Charlie Sandefur, who reportedly are in negotiations with Strip properties for their venue.

"There would be tremendous foot traffic," she said by phone Tuesday. "I think it's going to be dynamite. Jeez," she paused, adding, "I shouldn't use that word."

Her 1984 book was titled "Mafia Princess - Growing Up In Sam Giancana's Family," as was the 1986 made-for-TV movie that starred Susan Lucci as Giancana and Tony Curtis as her father.

Las Vegas was part of her father's territory, and she's excited about "following in the shadow of his footsteps."

Giancana, 74, said she's moving here this summer to take a hands-on role in the project.

Her father, who controlled Chicago in the late 1950s and 1960s, was killed at his Chicago home June 19, 1975, four days before her birthday.

While the name of Las Vegas hit man Tony Spilotro has come up as a suspect, her No. 1 suspect, she said, remains the CIA. She's convinced the CIA wanted to silence her father. She co-wrote the 2005 book "JFK And Sam: The Connection Between the Giancana And Kennedy Assassinations," which made the case that her father ordered the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Giancana arrived with two beefy bodyguards for a business dinner Saturday at Capo's on West Sahara Avenue. She has asked Capo's owner Nico Santucci, a Chicago native, to design the Giancana room for the exhibit, which will include the same furniture that was in the family home the night her father was killed while frying Italian sausage and peppers.

"Sam would love this joint," she told Santucci, who opened the Italian steakhouse at 5675 W. Sahara Ave. this year. It's patterned after a Chicago speakeasy with photographs of mob icons and members of the Rat Pack.

The exhibit is "going to be a first," Giancana said. Bloom, she said, is "bringing in millions of dollars (worth of stuff) from various different (crime) families that have never, ever been seen" by the public.

Thanks to Norm Clarke

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dead Mob Hit Man, Larry Neumann, Declared "Prime Suspect" in Double-Murder at McHenry County Bar

The baby-sitter, it turns out, got it right.

The McHenry County sheriff's office has concluded that a now-dead mob hit man named Larry Neumann, in all likelihood, killed two people in 1981 in the small town of Lakemoor -- a long-cold case that was reopened last summer on the basis of a tip from Holly Hager, who baby-sat for the children of one of the pair back then.

Authorities now say Neumann is the "prime suspect" in the double-murder -- and that no charges will be filed because he's dead.

"I knew from the start that's what it was," Hager, now 42, said of their conclusion.

On June 2, 1981, the bodies of 37-year-old bar owner Ron Scharff and 30-year-old Patricia Freeman were found, shot to death, in the back of Scharff's bar, the PM Pub, named for his sons Paul and Michael.

Hager's father Jim had been Scharff's best friend, and she baby-sat for Scharff's boys.

Last summer, on a car trip to Arkansas, Hager was talking with her father, and he mentioned Neumann, once a feared enforcer for the Chicago Outfit.

When she got back home, Hager searched for Neumann's name on the Internet. It turned up on a serial-killer site. And Neumann, she learned, was from McHenry County. What convinced her this was no coincidence was the 2007 autobiography of Frank Cullotta, "Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness," a mob burglar and hit man-turned-government informant. In it, he wrote about Neumann killing two people in 1981 at a McHenry County bar.

Hager told authorities, and they reopened the case.

Neumann had been a part of Cullotta's Las Vegas burglary crew, working for Outfit boss Tony "The Ant" Spilotro. Cullotta said Neumann was mad that Scharf had kicked his ex-wife out of the bar, drove to McHenry County and shot Scharff. Freeman, a divorced mother of two, died because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was her first night working at the bar to supplement what she made as a school bus driver.

Hager's tip wasn't the first time Neumann was implicated in the killings. Cullotta said he told McHenry County authorities the same story in 1982, when he became one of the government's best witnesses against his old organized-crime brethren.

"I did what I had to do at the beginning," Cullotta said by phone. But the chief investigator for McHenry County at the time, according to the just-concluded sheriff's report, questioned Cullotta's credibility.

"I think the investigation should have taken care of this back in '82, '83, and nothing happened," Paul Scharff, who was 10 when his father was killed, said by phone from Texas, where he lives.

After spending nearly 1,300 hours on the renewed investigation, the investigators now have concluded: "Frank Cullotta provided information that was credible and accurate."

Neumann died in prison in 2007 at 79. He spent the last 23 years of his life locked up for killing a jeweler.

Paul Scharff said he believes charges could have been brought against others who had information at the time about the murders. Still, he's glad to know who the killer was, even if it's too late to make a case in court.

"The families and friends of Ron Scharff and Patricia Freeman didn't forget about them," Scharff said. "We find some peace in that."

Thanks to NewsRadio780

Sunday, July 12, 2009

City of Chicago Squeezes Widow of Man Squeezed by The Chicago Outfit

Whether the name of Richie Urso ever makes it into the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich next June is anybody's guess.

You've probably never heard of Richie Urso. But the FBI sure has heard of him.

His is a classic Chicago story, about a beefy yet charming guy born on Grand Avenue, who got in trouble with the law as a kid, only to make political friends and become extremely wealthy.

He was arrested once for jewelry theft in the '60s by the Outfit's top Chicago police detective, William Hanhardt. Urso's alleged partner in the theft was the mob enforcer Frankie Cullotta, who later became the technical adviser for the movie "Casino." The charges against Urso went away. Like I said, it's a Chicago story.

Richie went from the trucking business into real estate, dropping thousands of dollars in contributions to politicians like Mayor Richard Daley and former Gov. Dead Meat. He hung around with bankers, real estate players, insiders at the Cook County Board of (Tax) Review, at Mart Anthony's Restaurant on Randolph Street.

He was worth millions in real estate. He was also the victim of an Outfit shakedown that figured in the FBI's landmark Family Secrets case against top mob bosses.

Now the FBI is going through his business, interested in his associates, including former Mutual Bank of Harvey boss Amrish Mahajan, who has dropped off the political map. Though not charged, Uncle Amrish is under investigation as a top Blagojevich fundraiser. "My husband was excited because he was supposed to go with Amrish and Daley on a trip to India," said Richie's wife, Joanne Urso, recalling what she told federal investigators. "They were all going to go together. But then he died."

Daley and his wife, Maggie, made the trip with a Chicago business delegation.

Amrish Mahajan was a political connection for Daley, Blagojevich and other politicians to the Indian community. His wife, Anita, said, "He did not go on the trip with the mayor."

Anita -- charged with bilking the state out of millions of dollars in phony drug tests -- said her husband was in India, and unreachable.

After Richie's death in 2003, lenders called in their notes. Lawyers demanded big fees. The will that he told Joanne was stashed in a Mutual Bank safe deposit box was never found. And Daley's City Hall, which had never given Richie much trouble, suddenly slapped Joanne with a series of citations on their properties.

City Hall is also demanding she sell Richie's prized 24-acre site just west of the Cook County Jail for millions less than she says it's worth. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) is demanding the site for a park. "I'm getting ripped off by everybody. By everybody," Joanne Urso said.

She told me Richie died of a heart attack on the kitchen floor of a girlfriend's home, on April 15, 2003. "You should call her," she said.

So we did. The woman is Mary Ann Dinovo, who works in human resources for the county tax review board, which handles tax appeals for every parcel of real estate in the county.

"He said, 'What do you got to eat?' " recalled Dinovo. "I'd just made a big tuna salad. He said, 'Can I have some?' The TV was on in the kitchen. The fork dropped out of his hand. He said he felt sick and went to the bathroom."

Minutes later, Richie Urso, his mouth full of tuna salad, was dead at age 61.

"It was karma that we met," Dinovo said. "We loved to do things together, go to shows, go to Navy Pier. ... He'd always play like he was poor. 'I'm just a poor truck driver,' he'd say. Sometimes we'd drive by a piece of property and he'd ask me who owned it."

Did you help him find out who owned it? "Absolutely not," said Dinovo, who said she has not been contacted by federal authorities. "I never knew what the hell he had. I didn't ask. But how do you think I felt when after he died, his friends told me that he was worth, like, $50 million? I said, 'What?' "

In late November of last year, Blagojevich hadn't yet been arrested. But the noose was tightening.

About a week before the FBI knocked on the governor's door, they knocked on Joanne Urso's door. FBI agents and a lawyer from the U.S. attorney's office wanted to chat.

"They asked about everything that was going on with the banks, the lawyers, our properties," Joanne Urso said. "... They asked about Amrish Mahajan and the governor. Oh, and [state Sen.] Jimmy DeLeo, they asked about him."

Only Blagojevich has been charged with a crime, and it's not illegal to know a guy like Richie Urso.

The FBI didn't have to ask about Richie and the Outfit. Without Richie, there may not have been a Family Secrets case that sent three mob bosses to prison.

That's because in 1986, just three months after gangsters Tony and Michael Spilotro were murdered, Richie Urso was the victim of an Outfit shakedown.

It all came out in testimony by mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, and chronicled in the book "Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" by my colleague Jeff Coen.

Nick's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., and fellow mobster John Fecarotta were competing to squeeze Urso for payments on a juice loan from the 1960s. It wasn't even Urso who borrowed the money. The father of an Urso partner owed the juice.

Urso was growing wealthy by the 1980s, and the mob wanted a piece. Fecarotta demanded that Urso make Fecarotta's house payments. Frank Calabrese Sr. held a knife to Urso's crotch, also demanding cash, according to trial testimony.

By then, Fecarotta had botched the burial of the Spilotro bodies, leaving them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield, allowing them to be found. Fecarotta's shakedown of Richie Urso gave Frank Sr. another reason to lobby Outfit bosses for a Fecarotta solution. "And that sort of put the nail in the coffin," Nick Calabrese testified.

Nick and Frank helped kill Fecarotta on Belmont Avenue, but Nick lost a bloody glove at the scene. Years later, the FBI used DNA from that glove to turn Nick Calabrese into a star government witness.

The Outfit usually doesn't shake down legitimate squares, but targets people who can't run to the government.

"My husband helped all of them," Joanne Urso said. "When people borrowed money, he paid for that. He was paying and paying all his life."

At the time of his death Richie Urso controlled a string of properties, including a South Loop building housing the Pink Monkey strip club, a Cicero property housing the adult bookstore Bare Assets and a Chicago Chinatown neighborhood shopping complex. But the crown jewel was the land near the jail complex.

Now City Hall has moved to take the property. According to public records, Joanne Urso owes Mutual Bank more than $9 million on that property and another huge lot at 6501 W. 51st St.

The city has offered her $7.1 million for the Little Village parcel. Her appraisers say it's worth $13 million. It would be worth much more if Cook County expands the jail.

"They [City Hall] thought I would sell it right away," she said. "But I wasn't going to just give it away. Now it feels they've decided to try and just take it."

Joanne Urso is a woman alone. Her clout died six years ago, on another woman's kitchen floor, with tuna salad in his mouth.

Once, Richie Urso was squeezed by the Outfit. Now his widow is getting squeezed by City Hall. It's a classic Chicago story.

The central theme is that there's nothing deader than dead clout. And now Joanne Urso has to pay for it.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Chicago Mob Order

Last week's death of an old-line Chicago Outfit boss reveals some changes in the way the crime syndicate does business.

As Chicago organized crime figures die off or go to prison, authorities tell the I-Team they are being replaced by far less flamboyant Outfit bosses, men who conduct mob rackets quietly and collect the proceeds with skilled efficiency.

The new mob order has never been more apparent than at last Wednesday's wake for high-ranking outfit boss Alphonso Tornabene, who died on Sunday at age 86.

It looked just like any other wake for any other man who'd lived a long life. The friends and relatives of Alphonso Tornabene streamed into pay their last respects all day on the northwest side.

A few mourners apparently didn't want to be seen at the wake for a man who recently headed the Chicago Outfit, according to testimony from a top underworld informant.

Mob hitman Nick Calabrese told the FBI that Tornabene administered the sacred oath of the Outfit to new members, a position reserved for only top capos. It's a ceremony that Calabrese described just as Hollywood has depicted over the years with a blood oath and a flaming holy card.

On Wednesday night, at Chicago's Montclair Funeral Home, the ceremony was less fiery. The holy card had Tornabene's name on it.

The attendees included Tracy Klimes, who says Tornabene was a great man who once cared for her family after her own father died, and knew little of his Outfit ties. "People always judge a book by its cover and I know there's things that people say about people but he had a wonderful heart," said Klimes.

The scene on Wednesday was far different than the crowds that turned out at Montclair more than thirty years ago after flashy Outfit boss Sam Giancana was assassinated and where attendance by Giancana's underlings was considered mandatory.

In 1986, mob bosses from other cities and a Hollywood actor showed up for the wake and funeral of Anthony and Michael Spilotro who had also been murdered by their Outfit brethren. But by 1992 at the Montclair wake for godfather Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo, only a few top hoodlums dared to attend such a public event.

The Accardo funeral and Tornabene's wake on Wednesday are evidence that the new mob order calls for discretion in business and in life.

There was one notable mourner on Wednesday night: suburban nursing home owner Nicholas Vangel.

During the Family Secrets mob trial, Mr. Vangel was shown to be a confidante of one time mob boss Jimmy Marcello. Although Vangel wasn't charged, the government showed undercover video of Vangel visiting with Marcello in prison and discussing the FBI investigation.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's Not the Hollywood Mob, It's the Chicago Outfit

In the mobster movies, a car pulls up and heavy men in hard shoes get out. And in the quiet suburban house, the wiseguy turned government witness stands foolishly in his new kitchen, oblivious in his bathrobe, scratching, boorishly guzzling milk from the carton.

The guns come up. The milk spills. The feds lose another witness.

Happily, it didn't happen in real life to Nicholas Calabrese, the Chicago Outfit hit man turned star government witness in the Family Secrets trial that sent mob bosses, soldiers, even a corrupt cop to prison. Calabrese is very much alive. Yet in federal court this week, the story of Outfit penetration of witness security is playing out in the case of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose, accused of leaking sensitive information about Calabrese—including his movements—to Chicago's mob.

It's a difficult case to prove, since U.S. District Judge John Grady tossed out key evidence on Thursday. He invited an appeal by telling the jury "I made a mistake" in allowing secret prison tapes to be played linking Ambrose's late father, a Chicago cop convicted in the Marquette 10 police drug scandal, with other crooked cops connected to the Outfit.

Whether Ambrose is found guilty or not, it's obvious that imprisoned Outfit boss Jimmy Marcello and his sleepy brother Michael—who testified in a rumpled orange jumpsuit Thursday—believed they'd cracked the security around Calabrese.

The Marcellos knew of Calabrese being driven around town to murder locations where he briefed the FBI on unsolved hits that formed the basis of Family Secrets, which sent Jimmy and others to prison for life. They knew Calabrese called his wife from a phone dialed as Ambrose guarded Calabrese.

The Marcello brothers knew all about it in January 2003, weeks before I revealed in a Feb. 21, 2003, column that Calabrese was talking to the FBI about a series of unsolved homicides—including the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro—and that his federal prison records had disappeared.

Though I'm flattered the Marcellos are loyal readers, and that Ambrose's defense would try to use my column to argue that the leak could have come from just about anywhere, Mickey Marcello testified Thursday that he knew about Calabrese because a law-enforcement source was spilling.

According to Marcello, a fat reputed Chicago mobster, Johnny "Pudgy" Matassa Jr., would tell him what the source learned. Then Marcello would drive to federal prison to tell Jimmy. Then, unbeknownst to the Marcello brothers, the FBI would tape what they said.

"John says his source was giving him a list of names," the balding Mickey testified. "... I had John. He had who he had, who I presumed was a law-enforcement officer."

Matassa and Marcello would meet, but not over checkered tablecloths, candles stuck in bottles of Chianti.

"One time it was Dunkin' Donuts, various restaurants, places like that," Marcello said.

He said Matassa told him about others Nick Calabrese was helping the FBI to investigate, including the boss, John "No Nose" DiFronzo—implicated but not charged in the sensational Spilotro murders. And about Anthony "The Trucker" Zizzo, who later disappeared from a Melrose Park restaurant lot and has never been found.

Mickey Marcello, a font of information, developed a severe case of Fedzheimers when asked about Joe "The Builder" Andriacci, and those two brothers from Bridgeport, Bruno and Frank "Toots" Caruso. Andriacci and the Carusos were not charged.

"Andriacci. 'The Builder,' " said Ambrose lawyer Frank Lipuma during cross-examination. "Is he a mob boss?"

"I don't know," Marcello deadpanned.

"Are you aware of the Carusos who run Chinatown/Bridgeport?" Lipuma asked.

"No," Marcello said. "I'm not aware of that."

"Aren't they associated with organized crime?"

"They know a lot of people," sighed Marcello. "I guess you could say that. That they know a lot of people."

So do the Marcello brothers. They knew a guy who knew a guy who knew Nick Calabrese was taking the FBI to places where murders were committed.

That's not Hollywood.

It's Chicago.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

John "No Nose" DiFronzo and Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene Named as Original Operation Family Secrets Targets

Reigning Chicago mob boss John "No Nose" DiFronzo was an original target of the Family Secrets investigation, according to these 2002 Justice Department records released on Tuesday, along with Alphonse 'Pizza Al" Tornabene, the Outfit's elder statesman.

"The objective in the case is to indict and convict...high ranking members of Chicago organized crime...including DiFronzo...and Tornabene," stated the government. But despite a case summary naming them as targets, neither DiFronzo nor Tornabene were among the fourteen Outfit members charged in 2005 with murders and mayhem.

As of 2007, Tornabene was still meeting with suspected Outfit figures and as of last month, the I-Team found DiFronzo still controlling Outfit rackets and meeting with mob underlings at a suburban restaurant.

The U.S. Marshal service files were made public on Tuesday night in the case of Deputy John Ambrose, now on trial for leaking information to the mob about Nick Calabrese, the highest ranking Chicago mobster ever to become a government witness.

According to the witness protection records, Calabrese said he and John DiFronzo planned and committed the most notorious mob hit in last 25 years: the gangland murders of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro, found buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Nick Calabrese's testimony was to be so spectacular, that 24 men were listed by the feds as threats, all of whom would want to kill him.

Nick Calabrese lived to testify and federal prosecutors won the Family Secrets case. But as the records show, there are still some secrets left.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie and Ann Pistone

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