The Chicago Syndicate: Toots Caruso
Showing posts with label Toots Caruso. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toots Caruso. Show all posts

Friday, July 14, 2017

Family Secrets Mob Book by @JeffCoen is Indispensable to Know How Chicago Truly Works

If you're interested in understanding the real Chicago—and there can be no serious understanding of this completely political city without examining the Chicago Outfit—then you'll soon have a great new book on your shelves:

"Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob" (Chicago Review Press) by Chicago Tribune federal courts reporter Jeff Coen.

Yes, Coen is a colleague of mine who is well-respected in our newsroom. But the reason I recommend this book is that I've followed Coen's work chronicling this case. His careful eye and clean writing style have produced years of compelling Tribune stories and now this authoritative account of one of the most amazing Chicago Outfit cases in history.

It involves the FBI's turning of Chicago Outfit hit man Nicholas Calabrese into a top witness and informer. Calabrese's access and insight into unsolved murders, offered up at trial by the expert killer and brother of a Chinatown Crew boss, were more than astounding. And, in a creepy but necessary way, illuminating.

Calabrese, a deadly though perpetually terrified hit man, testified against the bosses about more than 18 gangland murders in the federal Family Secrets case. Now mob bosses including his brother Frank, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo and Jimmy Marcello, and fellow hit man Paul Schiro will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Later this week an Outfit messenger boy—Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who worked in the evidence section and who visited Frank Calabrese in prison to discuss the FBI's interest in an old bloody glove—also will be sentenced.

From the witness stand, Doyle gave Chicago one of my favorite words, "chumbolone," the Chinatown Crew's slang for idiot or fool. He deserves a long sentence. Federal mob watchers consider him to be close to the Outfit's current overall reputed street boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso.

Outfit helpers like Doyle, placed in sensitive government posts, in politics, in law enforcement, in the judiciary, in city inspection and business licensing bureaucracies, have long allowed the Outfit to form the base of the iron triangle that runs things.

"Doyle was one of the most interesting aspects of the case," Coen told me this week. "Here you have a police officer as a mole telling the Outfit when evidence in a murder was being sought by the FBI. I don't think the public is aware of the effort that goes into placing people in low-key clerical positions that give them great access, people that can fly under the radar."

Doyle learned the FBI was interested in a glove worn by Nick Calabrese in the murder of John Fecarotta, who himself received an Outfit death sentence for botching the 1986 burial of brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro.

"If Nick doesn't drop that glove, the FBI doesn't have the physical evidence to tell him he'd be going away forever," Coen said. "Without the glove, they wouldn't have Nick."

Nick's testimony involved the planning and surveillance of his victims, and the final end that came to them, either by a remote-controlled car bomb on a suburban highway ramp, or shotguns from a van along a country road near Joliet, or the laying on of hands and feet and ropes in a suburban basement.

The movie "Casino" depicted Outfit brothers Tony and Michael Spilotro beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield. That's how many of us thought they were killed, until Family Secrets revealed that they were actually beaten and strangled in a Bensenville basement.

In the gangster movies, the hit men are usually the roughest characters. But Calabrese wasn't a movie hit man, he was a real one, so frightened that he wet himself during his first killing.

On the witness stand and in the book, he comes off like what he is, a nerd of homicide, a man plagued by a sickening fear that settled on him at the first one and became like a second skin, and he found one way to deal with that fear—meticulous planning.

"He was nothing like a movie hit man," Coen said. "During testimony, he looked like somebody you'd bump into at a store in your neighborhood. But if the bosses pointed him at somebody, they could sleep, knowing the murder would be done."

On my shelf, there are books I consider to be indispensable to truly knowing how Chicago works. There is:


And now, there is Jeff Coen's Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob.


Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Code of Silence for Reputed Mobster at Daughter's Wedding

By the time many a man and woman get married, their families aren’t speaking to each other.

In the case of an upcoming mob wedding in Chicago, though, the silence is court- ordered. A federal judge laid down the law in the wedding of Frank Caruso and Brittany Szaflarski.

Brittany’s dad, Casey Szaflarski, is the reputed video poker king of Chicago. He’s under house arrest and wanted the judge to let him out to attend his daughter’s wedding on Aug. 21 at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.

The judge decided Szaflarski can go, but there’s a catch.

He can’t talk to his boss, the reputed head of the 26th Street mob crew, Frank “Toots” Caruso, who happens to be the father of the groom, also named Frank.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman ordered Casey Szaflarski not to utter one word to the elder Frank Caruso, or face jail. Federal prosecutors are concerned the men could talk mob business amid the nuptials.

Casey Szaflarski was arrested in March for allegedly running an illegal gambling operation. He was put under house arrest and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He is charged in the case with seven other men, including the alleged head of the Cicero mob crew, Michael Sarno. Federal prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet Bhachu allege Sarno ordered the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing with Casey Szaflarski’s.

The elder Frank Caruso has not been charged in the case.

Casey Szaflarski asked the judge to let him attend a host of wedding activities. He wanted to go to his daughter’s bridal shower luncheon at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue and then the rehearsal dinner at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel Aug. 18. Casey Szaflarski also hoped to spend the night in the Palmer House, so he could attend the post-wedding brunch there the next day.

The judge nixed those requests.

As part of the judge’s ruling, prosecutors will receive a list of everyone who attends the wedding. The guest list could be interesting since the bride and groom come from families with extensive ties to organized crime.

The groom, the younger Frank Caruso, made national headlines when he was arrested for the 1997 racially charged beating of 13-year-old Lenard Clark as Clark was riding his bicycle through Armour Square. Frank Caruso was sentenced to eight years in prison. He is the great-grandson of the late Bruno Roti Sr., one of the earliest leaders of organized crime in Chicago and the head of what would become the 26th Street mob crew. The groom’s father, Frank “Toots” Caruso, was listed by the FBI as one of the Chicago mobsters who posed a threat to the safety of star mob witness Nicholas Calabrese, the onetime Outfit killer who testified in the Family Secrets case.

The bride, Brittany Szaflarski, is the granddaughter of the late Joseph “Shorty” LaMantia, a well-known mob burglar, who was accused in court papers of once paying $20,000 to one of the most corrupt judges in state history, Thomas Maloney, to acquit his son in a murder case.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Friday, June 26, 2009

Convicted Family Secrets Cop to Petition Police Pension Board to Keep Pension

Chumbolone (pronounced chum-buh-LOAN), my favorite Chicago political word that explains exactly what politicians think of us taxpayers, has finally made it to the big time, with its own listing on urbandictionary.com. And as a bonus, today there's even more chumbolonian news.

The corrupt cop Anthony "Twan" Doyle -- who first uttered the word from a federal witness stand and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for being a messenger boy for bosses of the Chicago Outfit -- will petition the police pension board on Thursday in the hopes of keeping his pension.

"I'm not going to diminish his conviction and say it's insignificant, because it's not," said Twan's lawyer, the criminal defense whiz Ralph Meczyk. "But one event erased the career of a hardworking copper, and as far as his pension goes, it shouldn't be a complete loss.

"It's not going to be easy, I know."

Meczyk is scheduled to appear before the police pension board, one of the groups that mysteriously gave Mayor Richard Daley's nephew $68 million of city pension cash to invest, and the mayor says he knew absolutely nothing about it. The mayor thinks we're chumbolones.

Twan's gambit, that he was a good cop despite the Outfit messenger boy stuff, probably won't work. But given precedent, it's worth a try.

Just last February, convicted serial arsonist and former Chicago Fire Department Lt. Jeffrey "Matches" Boyle sought to recover his $50,000-a-year city pension despite the arson convictions.

Boyle's legal theory? When he set the fires, he was off duty, not on city time. The city fire pension board asked Boyle what his years as a firefighter taught him about being a good arsonist. "The hotter it got, the more it would burn," Boyle said. A clean answer without ambiguity. But he didn't receive his pension.

The reason I called Meczyk was to inform him that "chumbolone" had made it to urbandictionary.com, and to ask Meczyk to get all his friends and clients to go online and vote a jolly "thumbs up" for the word.

"I like chumbolone," Meczyk said. "You popularized it. And it's such a Chicago thing, it's part of Chicagoese now. I haven't met anyone, almost, who doesn't like the word, except for one person."

Who?

"Twan."

Oh.

Twan was known as the big silent guy with the big biceps who hung around with reputed mob street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso in Chinatown.

Twan had been picked up on federal recordings, visiting convicted Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. in prison and talking about murder evidence while joking about using a cattle prod on mafioso cooperating with the FBI. But Twan testified he had no idea what Calabrese had been saying. He said he only kept nodding and agreeing out of good manners.

"I gave him lip service," Twan said from the witness stand, shrugging. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I don't wanna look like a chumbolone, an idiot, stupid."

Search for the word on urbandictionary.com, and you'll see it right next to the condom ad and the photo of a curvy young woman selling T-shirts that say: "Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War."

Here's the Web site's definition:

Chumbolone -- idiot, stupid -- Popularized by Chicago newspaper columnist John Kass after first hearing the word spoken in testimony by mob messenger boy Anthony "Twan" Doyle during a 2007 federal trial. While working for the mob, Doyle got himself hired into the Chicago Police Department evidence department in order to remove or destroy DNA and other evidence of mob homicides.

Some readers insist that chumbolone is not a proper word. Others say it refers to a tasty Italian cake. One reader in particular really doesn't want me to use it.

"Twan doesn't like you using the word," Meczyk said. "He really doesn't like it."

Really? Why?

"He never said. He's quite stoic in this regard," Meczyk said. "He's in prison, but he's no chumbolone."

Thanks to John Kass

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

Friday, February 06, 2009

Will Multiple Mob Murders be Solved by Operation Family Secrets - Part Two?

One of my loyal readers, Chicago mob boss James Marcello—captured on grainy federal recordings eating salty corn chips while discussing my column—will be sentenced in the "Family Secrets" case on Thursday.

Marcello, 66, may receive life in prison for his conviction of racketeering conspiracy in connection with previously unsolved Chicago Outfit murders.

The movie "Casino" incorrectly depicted Chicago mob brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro beaten to death in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. But the trial showed that Marcello drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville home, where Michael thought he was going to become a "made member" of the Outfit. Bosses from every crew waited in the rumpus room for the brothers, who were beaten, strangled, their bodies dumped in the corn.

Dr. Pat Spilotro—dentist brother of the slain men—is scheduled to give a statement before U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel. Dr. Pat has been secretly working with the FBI for years. He's expected to name other mobsters he believes should also pay for the killings.

Many of the murders involved Nick Calabrese, the hit man turned federal witness, who spilled what he knew on his family and others, giving this case the name "Family Secrets."

So, how do I know Jimmy Marcello reads this column? It came up in trial evidence and federal tape.

In late February 2003, at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., the imprisoned Marcello is sitting with a visitor, his close friend Nick "The Caterer" Vangel, a Greek businessman so nicknamed by wise guys because he once owned The Carlisle banquet hall in Lombard.

That was a day or so after my column of Feb. 21, 2003, about Nick Calabrese entering the witness protection program, prepared to testify about the Spilotro and other hits. Nick Calabrese killed dozens of men, but the prospect of his testimony terrified the Outfit and they were trying to find out more.

"I just saw this last thing in the Trib," Vangel tells Marcello on the FBI surveillance tape about the column.

Marcello responds in Outfit code, with winks and nods. He also does another strange thing: Since they're talking murder, Marcello begins chomping on a bag of tasty snack food: Fritos. That's a Super Bowl commercial if I ever saw one.

As Vangel tells Marcello of Nick Calabrese, of bosses swabbed for DNA, of the murders being investigated and speculates about the grand jury, Marcello makes furtive motions with his eyebrows and hands. But he can't stop gobbling his crunchy fried corn.

Family Secrets cleared many Outfit killings. But others remain unsolved, perhaps waiting for a "Family Secrets II."

One mystery is the disappearance of mob boss Anthony Zizzo in September 2006, as prosecutors prepared their case. Zizzo vanished. His car turned up in the parking lot of a Melrose Park restaurant. He had been scheduled to meet some guys on Rush Street, but never made it. Imagine that.

Another is the 2001 murder of mob boss Anthony "The Hatch" Chiaramonti, gunned down in a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Lyons, the sign out front inviting customers to eat their fill "The Chicago Way."

And the 1998 killing of Michael Cutler, who was scheduled to testify in the case against Frank Caruso Jr., the son of the current reputed Outfit street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso. Junior had been charged with the savage beating of Lenard Clark, a black teenager, in Bridgeport. Cutler saw it all. But before he could testify, Cutler was shot once in the chest in what was called a random West Side robbery.

Random? If you say so.

The unsolved 1999 murder of hit man Ronnie Jarrett, killed outside his Bridgeport home, was believed to have been ordered by mobster Frank Calabrese (brother of Nick Calabrese), who last week was sentenced to life, but was never charged with the Jarrett hit.

One incredibly puzzling death hasn't even been listed as a hit. Outfit bookie and city worker Nick "The Stick" LoCoco—tangled in the City Hall Hired Truck scandal—loved to ride horses. In November 2004, the bookie went for a canter in the woods, fell off his steed and died. On a Sunday, with NFL games under way and money on the line, a bookie goes for a horseback ride? Isn't that odd?

Marcello will have plenty of time to ponder all this and read my column while munching on his Fritos, day after day after day. Betcha Jimmy can't eat just one.

Thanks to John Kass

Monday, October 01, 2007

All-Star FBI Team Responds to Letter and Puts Its Stamp on Chicago Outfit

The letter that spilled the Outfit's Family Secrets arrived at the Chicago offices of the FBI in November 1998.

It was addressed to now-retired FBI supervisor Tom Bourgeois, who was then the organized crime section chief. It was from Outfit prince Frank Calabrese Jr., serving a prison sentence in Milan, Mich.

Junior offered to implicate his father, Frank Sr., and uncle Nick in the unsolved murder of Outfit hit man John Fecarotta.

"It came in the mail. I couldn't believe it," Bourgeois told me last week during an interview with current FBI agents at the FBI's expansive new headquarters on the West Side. "We went to Frank to authenticate what he told us in the letter. And then we formulated a strategy on how we were going to approach this case. Strategy was the most important part here."

The recently concluded Family Secrets case took agents countless hours transcribing and decoding prison-house code, in which, for example "Zhivago" meant the two murdered Spilotro brothers buried in a cornfield. It also sent them reinvestigating cold Outfit hits from 30 years ago.

"It's hard to explain to the public how much work is involved," said James Wagner, president of the Chicago Crime Commission and a former FBI supervisor, who trained several of the agents. "You have to sit and transcribe those conversations in paper format, and that takes days and days of work right there, a mountain of paperwork," Wagner said. "And go back and find old witnesses."

Family Secrets began long before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There were two FBI squads working the Chicago Outfit then. One was working the Calabrese end, the family that ran the Chinatown crew through gambling, loan-sharking, extortion and murder. But there was another FBI squad focusing on mob-boss heir apparent Jimmy Marcello of the western suburbs, who was preparing to get out of prison and run things the Chicago way.

Both squads folded into one after 9/11. Though resources were shifted toward terrorism, the Chicago FBI kept some of its top people on the Family Secrets case that many of you have been reading about this summer.

This weekend, thousands of words and hours of video will be devoted to great sports plays, the stupendous touchdowns and home runs, and all that pressure on the necks of the Cubs and Bears, professional athletes whose names are known to millions.

FBI agents on Family Secrets aren't on baseball cards. Their names are not known. Yet they're a team more important than a bunch of ballplayers.

The lead case agent was Mike Maseth, who knew relatively little about the Outfit when he was assigned the Calabrese case at its beginning. He spent nine straight determined years working the case and countless hours with Nick Calabrese after he flipped him. And agent Anita Stamat, working on the Marcello angle, decoded the Outfit dialect with the help of Ted McNamara, the FBI's walking Outfit encyclopedia. Veteran John Mallul was the supervisor with the institutional memory who took over when Bourgeois retired.

"Ted McNamara was the mastermind with the code," Stamat said. "He's worked organized crime for 15 years. He helped guide us through the context of the prison conversations. We were recording them in the visiting room. There could be 200 people there, having their own conversations, and sometimes, Marcello would say, 'Cover your mouth,' to his brother Michael, thinking we were reading lips."

They didn't have to read lips, because they were listening and taping.

Other agents include Luigi Mondini, Chris Mackey, Christopher Smith, Tracy Balinao, Andrew Hickey, Mark Gutknecht, Dana DePooter, Trisha Holt and Tim Keese. And from the Internal Revenue Service, there were Bill Paulin, Laura Shimkus and Mike Welch.

You might not know their names, but mention Maseth or Stamat or Mallul or McNamara or the others around wise guys, and their faces freeze. The officials say is the new reputed Chinatown boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso, wouldn't be afraid of an NFL linebacker, but he'd tighten up if Ted McNamara came by for a pork chop sandwich at the Caruso polish sausage stand on 31st Street in Bridgeport.

Outfit bosses Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr. and Marcello will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison as a result of the case, and Paul "the Indian" Schiro might die inside too. The youngest person convicted in the Family Secrets trial is Anthony "Twan" Doyle, 62, not a boss but a Chicago cop who spilled police secrets about the Fecarotta murder to the Outfit.

Once the FBI flipped Nick Calabrese and began decoding the prison talk of his brother Frank and of Marcello, the case mushroomed. One phase is done. Other cases are being developed as you read this. "I feel this is what the FBI does best," Mallul said, "good old-fashioned police work and investigations, combined with fortuitous events that align themselves."

Like a mob princeling sending a letter to the FBI.

Thanks to John Kass

$5 Off Discount Coupon Code for Magazines.com, Inc.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Will Daley Bring Back Fugitive From Mexico to Testify?

As chairman of the new Chumbolone Museum of Grant Park, I have an important announcement regarding my top underling and museum co-chair, Mayor Richard Daley.

We at the Chumbolone Museum have ordered the mayor to lead an expedition into Mexico to find Chicago's missing link: Marco Morales, the notorious corrupt fugitive and bribe-paying city contractor.

The Chumbolone Museum doesn't care how Daley brings him back, as long as he brings him back. Alive.

What we don't need is Marco in pieces, wrapped in butcher paper. Sure, we'll stuff Marco, if that's what the mayor wants, but only after Marco testifies in federal cases about bribes at City Hall.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," said a real top Daley administration official when I explained the extradition expedition. "I don't think he'll want to go."

Not even to bring Marco back? Alive? "No, not even for Marco," the official said.

Well, too bad. He's going, whether he likes it or not. Daley has already traveled to France and demanded the French extradite a suspected murderer for trial in Chicago. How can my own Chumbolone Museum vice chairman not apply his rigorous extradition standards to Mexico?

As loyal readers know, the mayor and I are co-founders of the Chumbolone Museum, so he won't have to support that other museum nobody wants in Grant Park. Chumbolone is Chinatown slang for fool, and as election results prove, there are millions of us in the Chicago area. We need a museum more than rich kids need a museum.

So if you don't see the mayor, don't worry, he'll be in Mexico, on the Marco hunt, with a hand-picked team of experts. They'll wear pith helmets and cute khaki shorts, and carry big nets on long poles over their shoulders, as befitting a proper museum expedition. Except for the mayor.

He'll have his own net, but he won't wear a pith helmet. A pith helmet would smash his hair and make his head perspire. Instead, he'll wear his famous Indiana Jones hat.

On Thursday, Tribune reporters Ray Gibson, Dan Mihalopoulos and Oscar Avila broke the news on the Tribune's Web site that Mexican federal police had seized Morales.

Morales had a deal with federal prosecutors here in Chicago years ago that he'd testify about bribes he paid to Daley administration officials in exchange for lucrative city contracts. But he changed his mind, ran to Mexico instead, and his son began receiving $40 million in Daley administration contracts. Naturally, the mayor knew nothing about hush money.

Mexican authorities arrested Morales in 2004, but denied extradition on corruption charges. Recently, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Morales on drug charges, making extradition easier. It also makes City Hall nauseous.

"I miss Chicago so much," Marco Morales told me in a phone interview last September. "I miss everything about Chicago."

But not enough to come back? "No," he said then. "I've got issues up there."

The main issue was the Chicago Outfit promising to blow his brains out if he continued talking about bribes he allegedly paid to Tony Pucillo, Daley's former Department of Transportation boss. And about his relationship with Daley insider and trucking boss Michael Tadin.

Pucillo's brother and Tadin were involved in a company that paved the city's streets, in a contract overseen by Tony and supported by Daley.

Back in the day, at Department of Transportation golf outings, Tony, Mike and the mayor would ride in the same golf cart, saying hello to laborers and vendors in the asphalt business. It was Daley's way of advertising that his boys had his blessing. Only a chumbolone wouldn't get it.

So we at the Chumbolone Museum called Pucillo and Tadin on Thursday, telling them to report for duty with the mayor. They'll ride a golf cart around and around the walls of the prison in Mexico City. The mayor will yell from the back seat.

"Marco! Marco! Where are you? Marco?"

Every great expedition requires bait to lure exotic creatures into the open, so explorers can catch them in their nets. And I've got just the thing.

"There's no Polish sausage around here. No Italian sausage," Marco told me in our interview. "You know that place the Carusos have in Bridgeport? Well, I'd die for one of those Polish sausages."

He meant the Maxwell Street Polish stand on 31st Street, and brothers Frank "Toots" Caruso and Bruno Caruso. The FBI considers them to be the experts on the Outfit's Chinatown crew.

"I just remember what a Polish tastes like and I miss it, you know, like I miss Chicago," Morales told me.

Don't worry Marco. The Chumbolone Museum will pay Toots to bring a hot sack of sangwiches for you. You're coming home, buddy.

Mayor Daley is on his way. But before he persuades me to stuff and mount you in the Chinatown Asphalt wing at our Chumbolone Museum, you'll have to talk to other experts.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI. But they're no chumbolones.

Thanks to John Kass

Championcatalog.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Will Family Secrets Mob Trial Convictions Doom Chicago Mob?

Does Monday's conviction of four top mobsters mean the end of the Chicago Outfit?

Hardly.

The Outfit long has controlled illegal gambling operations -- from sports betting to video poker -- and has financed Chicago-area drug dealing, said Chicago Crime Commission President James Wagner, a former top FBI mob fighter. Money from those ventures often is invested in law-abiding businesses because "you've got to have somewhere to send that cash in order to legitimize it," Wagner said.

History has shown that when Outfit members get sent to prison, others take over. The most recent transfers of power happened long before the Family Secrets trial began, Wagner said. "This will solidify the positions of the people already out there," he said. The trial "hasn't eliminated anything."

Who runs the Chicago mob isn't clear. Reputed mobsters not charged in the Family Secrets case who are still powerful in the Outfit include John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi, Al Tornabene, Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso, Marco D'Amico and Michael Sarno, law enforcement sources said.

Al Egan, a former Chicago Police detective who investigated organized crime here for three decades, said the verdict wounded the Outfit but won't kill it.

"This put an extremely huge dent in it," said Egan, who worked on the federal Organized Crime Task Force. However, "It's not going to be stopped."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir and Chris Fusco

New for the Fall at CharlesKeath.com

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Playing Dumb is Wrong Prescription on Witness Stand

Anthony (Passafiume) Doyle, the hulking former Chicago cop tied to the Chicago Outfit, doesn't look like a guy who takes many beatings.

Known as "Twan" on the street, Doyle looks more like a guy who gives them for free. But he needed a doctor after the beating he took on the witness stand Thursday in the Family Secrets Outfit trial.

After a severe cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, Doyle looked flat and gray, like the pork chops in the sandwiches at the Maxwell Street Polish stand on 31st Street byda viaduct.

Twan looked like he needed a doctor.

So I drove over after testimony was done, for a pork-chop sandwich, to the doctors office there, to see if Dr. Frank "Toots" Caruso would make a house call and tend to his lifelong friend.

Federal authorities consider Caruso, a former labor leader ousted from his union for crime connections, to be a major street boss in the Outfit. Funk kept referring to him in open court as "The Doctor," which he said was Outfit code, in the tape recordings from the federal prison in Milan, Mich., where Doyle visited Chinatown loan shark Frank Calabrese.

Prosecutors say Calabrese wanted the doctor to make a visit, to tend to sickly friends who might talk to the feds.

Since I was hungry, and Doyle appeared in need of doctorly advice, there was only one place to go. This doctor's office smelled of onions and grilled meat, which is nicer than antiseptics.

Is Dr. Toots here? Where's Dr. Toots?

"Toots no here," said the grill man through the window.

So I left my office number and ordered two pork-chop sandwiches, or sangwiches as they are called, one for me and one for my trusty colleague, the Polish Spartacus.

Light on the onions, I said. "I'll take mine regular," Spartacus said.

We stood outside, eating our tasty sangwiches at the counter on the sidewalk, reflecting on the testimony and anticipating walking across the street for a fine cigar.

Doyle's testimony had been rather predictable. He didn't know nothing. He didn't know why he used code words so easily that he appeared quite fluent in the obscure Chinatown dialect of the Outfit language.

It's not Chinese. It's not classic Italian. It's Chitalian.

On tape, Doyle and Frank Calabrese spoke of "doctors" (Caruso) and "purses" (bloody gloves sought by the FBI) and "sisters" (gangsters) and "sickly sisters" (guys who might testify against the Outfit) and the "family" (you know) and so on.

It sure sounded incriminating, but Doyle had a reason. He testified that he played along with the Calabrese code he called "gibberish" and "mumbo jumbo" because he didn't want to look stupid. So he kept talking, incriminating himself into a federal charge that as a cop in the police evidence section, he warned Outfit bosses that the FBI was looking for a bloody glove that would frighten "sickly sisters." At least, that's his theory.

"I gave him lip service," Doyle said. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I don't wanna look like a chumbolone, an idiot, stupid," Doyle said from the witness stand.

There is a tasty Sicilian Easter cake called ciambellone, but Twan doesn't look like a tasty Easter cake. He looks more like the guy you never want to meet in a parking lot at night.

He was especially upset that prosecutors dropped the portion of the tape on him where he keeps referring to "the doctor." He didn't want to be a chumbolone about "the doctor" either, but that put him in a bind with prosecutor Funk.

"I never heard of a name called 'doctor,'" Doyle said of Caruso. "And I've known him my entire life!"

He denied this, he denied that, and if I hadn't been reading the transcripts and watching the tapes along with the jury, I'd have believed him. Perhaps they do believe him.

Outside the federal building, Hollywood producers were filming another exciting Batman movie -- this one about Batman fighting the Chicago Outfit.

The streets were crowded with extras and trucks, and production crew members told me that the big trucks with the equipment belonged to "Movies in Motion," the company founded by William Galioto, another former Chicago cop and brother-in-law of Jimmy Marcello, one of the other Outfit bosses on trial in Family Secrets.

They must think we're chumbolones. We reflected on this, walking across the street to the cigar shop, hoping to find Dr. Toots enjoying a stogie. We had two fine cigars ourselves, but the Doctor wasn't in.

Three Chicago Police detectives were inside, smoking cigars, resting their paws on their guns on their belts.

How's crime? "It always goes down when it rains," said one detective, and everybody laughed.

The TV was on, with a rerun of a M*A*S*H episode, and Col. Sherman T. Potter was speaking kindly, giving fatherly advice. I wonder if Dr. Toots would give his friend Twan that same medicine.

Thanks to John Kass

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Banker Becomes Focus of Mob Testimony

Friends of ours: Frank "Toots" Caruso, Nicholas Calabrese, Bruno "The Bomber" Roti, Fred Roti
Friends of mine: Fred Barbara

Mayor Daley's friend Fred Bruno Barbara -- who found himself accused in court this week of participating in a mob bombing two decades ago -- has had a lot of jobs over the years. Truck driver. Garbage kingpin. Multimillionaire investor.

His latest: banker.

Barbara, who once was found not guilty of trying to collect an illegal "juice" loan from an undercover FBI agent, last year joined the boards of directors of two banks -- one in Evergreen Park, another on Chicago's Northwest Side.

Barbara, who once was found not guilty of trying to collect an illegal "juice" loan from an undercover FBI agent, last year joined the boards of directors of two banks -- one in Evergreen Park, another on Chicago's Northwest Side.

In April 2006, he was appointed to the board of Evergreen Community Bank. A Barbara business partner, car dealer Joseph Rizza, was already a board member. The bank was purchased by Evergreen Private Bank earlier this year, and Barbara and Rizza remain on the board. "Fred's been a very good board member," said Darin Campbell, president and chief executive of Evergreen Private Bank.

Last October, Barbara and state Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) got state approval to join the board of Belmont Bank & Trust, founded last year by James J. Banks, a zoning attorney who is the nephew of Ald. William Banks (36th).

Barbara, 59, who has homes in Oak Brook and Palm Beach, Fla., has been arrested five times but never convicted of any crime, records show. So state regulators had no reason to exclude him from a bank board, according to state regulators. "These are allegations, and we can't and don't make licensing decisions because someone is alleged to have done something," said Scott Clarke, assistant director of banks and trusts for the Illinois Division of Banking.

With his application to join the Belmont Bank board, Barbara submitted documents to the state showing he and four reputed mobsters -- including his cousin Frank "Toots'' Caruso -- were found not guilty 24 years ago when they were charged with trying to collect an illegal high-interest loan from an undercover FBI agent.

In court testimony Tuesday, admitted mob hit man turned government informant Nicholas Calabrese said Barbara joined two reputed mobsters when they bombed the now-defunct Horwath's Restaurant, a well-known mob hangout in Elmwood Park.

Barbara -- a grandson of early Chicago mob boss Bruno "The Bomber'' Roti -- never was charged in connection with the Horwath's bombing. He didn't return calls for comment.

Barbara built a fortune as a city contractor, getting city trucking business while his uncle, the late Ald. Fred Roti, was a powerful member of the City Council and -- according to an FBI document made public after Roti died -- a "made" member of the mob.

Barbara sold his company, Fred Barbara Trucking, in 1997 in a deal that could have brought him as much as $100 million, records show. He became a consultant to the company that now operates the mayor's much-criticized blue-bag recycling program.

Barbara's wife, Lisa Humbert, had a trucking company that was fired from the city's Hired Truck Program after, in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation, the city determined she wasn't running the business, as she'd claimed. She'd gotten city work by claiming to have a women-owned business.

Thanks to Tim Novak

Friday, June 22, 2007

How Do 18 Chicago Outfit Murders Remain Unsolved for Decades?

How do 18 Chicago Outfit murders remain unsolved for decades?

It might help to have the cops on your side.

This came out in the opening statement by Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully in the historic Family Secrets trial, when Scully pointed at one of the accused, a fellow with the intriguing nickname of "Twan."

He's called Twan in the 11th Ward, in Bridgeport and Chinatown, where not only the wiseguys are nervous about this trial, but presumably some 11th Ward politicians, too, about information gushing from the mouths of Outfit informants.

Twan is a tough-looking fellow, with a muscly forehead and plates for eyebrows, a Chinatown Sammy Sosa in a nice suit, and the only one of five defendants not accused of being involved in the 18 murders.

The name Twan remains a mystery. If any of you know his longtime friend, Bridgeport's former labor boss, Frank "Toots" Caruso, and you ask Toots and he tells you, please call me. On a pay phone.

Scully's suggestion about how things work isn't in the name Twan, but in another, official name used by Twan: Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle.

According to Scully, Doyle was with the Outfit and a loan shark, but Doyle also worked in the evidence section of the Chicago Police Department for a time. If Scully's allegations are correct -- and Scully was correct a few years ago when he put former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt behind bars for running the Outfit's jewelry-heist crew -- the Outfit's reach into local law enforcement will be demonstrated once again.

Good cops who make small mistakes are often publicly humiliated, trotted out and yelled at by politicians who wag their fingers for TV cameras. Their families are ruined. But law-and-order politicians somehow always forget to wag their fingers at cops like Hanhardt or Twan.

If you're a loyal reader, you might remember that I wrote about Outfit tough guy John Fecarotta years ago, after reporting that Chinatown crew member Nicholas Calabrese had sought refuge in the federal witness protection program, which started Family Secrets. Fecarotta was implicated in many of the 18 murders by Scully on Thursday, including the 1986 beating deaths of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro. It was Fecarotta's job to bury them. He blew it by inserting them in a shallow grave in an Indiana cornfield.

After the Spilotros' bodies were found, Fecarotta was invited to go on another crime, on Belmont Avenue. But he didn't know he was the intended target until Nick Calabrese pointed a gun at his face. There was a struggle, Nick was shot, and though Fecarotta ended up dead, a bloody glove was found, dripping with Nick's DNA. The glove ended up in the police evidence section where Doyle worked.

When the FBI began asking about the glove, Scully said Doyle became quite interested in this development, figuring that his Outfit superiors would be equally interested, if not more so. Scully alleged that Doyle told Nick Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., about the glove that could put the Calabrese family in the Fecarotta murder.

"He betrayed his oath to the public and decided to remain loyal to Outfit interests," Scully said.

There were other highlights in court Thursday, including Frank Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, the dynamic and splendidly dressed Joseph Lopez, the only lawyer in town tough enough to pull off pink socks and work for mobsters while remaining a loyal reader of my column.

He described his client as a man ruined by an ungrateful son, another informant witness, Frank Calabrese Jr. Junior was a drug addict who didn't want to go into the trucking business and who cared more about a tarty wife than his own father's love, Lopez said.

He pointed to his client, who allegedly strangled several people until their eyes popped out but who was so soft and kindly-looking in court, he could have been in a TV commercial for facial tissue.

"Who is this man in the powder blue suit who could be a cheese salesman from Wisconsin?" Lopez asked the jury about Frank Calabrese Sr.

Gentle Wisconsin cheese salesman? I wonder where he read that oneThief.

Other highlights included the lists of the Outfit soldiers allegedly in on the 18 killings. And the repeated mention of Bridgeport hit man Ronnie Jarrett, who worked for Bridgeport trucking boss/mayoral favorite Michael Tadin and was the model for the James Caan crime classic "Thief."

Jarrett was gunned down in 1999, about the time that Twan was getting worried about the glove. Jarrett's murder is not included in this case.

"Unfortunately," said Lopez, arguing that his client was not involved in other murders, "people get killed for various reasons all the time."

"The truth," Lopez said, quoting a lyrical Italian proverb, "is somewhere between the clouds."

But I think it's in the evidence room of the Chicago Police Department.

Thanks to John Kass

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Alledged Mob Social Club: We Do a Lot of Good Things

Friends of ours: Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra, Bruno Caruso, Fred Roti, Frank "Toots" Caruso, Michael Talarico
Friends of mine: Robert Cooley

Leaders of the Chicago mob's 26th Street Crew established the Old Neighborhood Italian-American Club in 1981.

Members said it was just a private social club. But the FBI tapped the club's phones in the 1980s, suspecting it was a nerve center for gambling and "juice loans" -- illegal, high-interest loans enforced with the threat of violence. The wiretaps became part of a case against 10 men accused of running an illegal gambling operation in Chinatown.

Some reputed mob figures still hang out at the club. But one of them says reputed mob members no longer run the place as they once did. He put it this way: "We're not influenced by us any more."

The club -- which includes members of the powerful Roti family -- has broadened its membership since it was founded in 1981 by the late Angelo "The Hook'' LaPietra, who ran the 26th Street Crew. The members include doctors and lawyers, and people from different ethnic backgrounds.

The club has sponsored youth baseball teams, hosted anti-drug seminars for kids and held civic events featuring, among others, former Los Angeles Dodgers baseball manager Tommy Lasorda. It's opened its doors to church functions and school graduations. It's hosted "breakfast with Santa" and huge July 4th parties. "We do a lot of good things," one longtime member says. And when the White Sox are playing, its big-screen TV is blaring. Sox Park is just a few blocks south of the club, a red-brick building at 30th and Shields -- a big improvement over its former home in a Chinatown storefront. "It started out as a storefront, they'd play cards, sit around," said one veteran mob investigator. "Now, it's a Taj Mahal, with dues, workout rooms."

One past member is Robert Cooley, a former Chicago cop who became a mob lawyer, then government informant. "Everybody that I knew from the Chinatown area belonged, all of the bookmakers that I represented, that I knew," Cooley said in a July 1997 deposition to union investigators examining alleged mob ties of labor leader Bruno F. Caruso.

Caruso, a nephew of the late Ald. Fred B. Roti, was identified in a 1999 FBI report as a "made" member of the mob. He is also a member of the Old Neighborhood Italian-American Club. The group's "purpose . . . was to keep the neighborhood very active with children," Caruso said in a deposition six years ago.

Other current or recent members include two other men the FBI identified as "made" mob members: Caruso's brother Frank "Toots'' Caruso and Michael Talarico, a restaurant owner who married into the extended Roti family.

The club president is Dominic "CaptainD" DiFazio, a longtime friend of "Toots" Caruso. In a recent interview, DiFazio allowed that he was involved in illegal gambling but said that was years ago.

"Twenty five years ago, I was arrested for taking bets on horses -- 25 years ago," DiFazio said. "You learn your lesson quick in life, and that's it. Everyone's made a mistake in their life.

"Whatever I do now I do now, my heart's in this organization . . . It was always for the community, never anything sinister, believe me."

Thanks to Robert C. Herguth, Tim Novak and Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One Family's Rise, A Century of Power

Friends of ours: Bruno Roti Sr., Al Capone, Fred Bruno Roti, Johnny Genero, James Belcastro, Frank "Skid" Caruso, Pat Marcy, Frank "Toots" Caruso
Friends of mine: Morris "Mutt" Caruso, Dominick Scalfaro, Robert Cooley


When Bruno Roti Sr. died in 1957, 3,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects. Fourteen cars overflowed with flowers.

The wail of a 12-piece marching band filled the streets of the neighborhood that Roti Sr. had called home for nearly five decades, since leaving his small village of Simbario in southern Italy in 1909. Nearly 100 men wearing black sashes across their chests escorted the hearse through the neighborhood today known as Chinatown. They were members of an organization Roti founded -- the Society of St. Rocco di Simbario.

It was a funeral fit for a cardinal. Or a mayor. According to his death certificate, Bruno Roti Sr., dead at 76, was a beer distributor.

To people in his tightly knit Italian neighborhood, Roti Sr. was their leader. Years after Roti's death, his godson, in a recorded interview he gave in 1980 for the "Italians in Chicago" project run by the history department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, recalled him as a man who showed immigrants a "clean, decent, respectable way of life.''

To Chicago Police, though, Roti Sr. was "The Bomber," "The Mustache," "a big man in the Chicago crime setup." In the early part of the century, he was part of the Black Hand, police said -- the name given to loose-knit gangs of extortionists who preyed on fellow Italian immigrants for money. The Black Hand gangs would be taken over in the 1920s by Al Capone's gang.

"Roti was close to Al Capone and was visited by Capone on many occasions,'' according to an FBI report prepared nine years after his death.

The FBI identified Roti Sr. as the leader of what would become the Chicago Outfit's 26th Street/Chinatown crew, a key cog in organized crime here. His descendants would build upon his legacy, extending the family's influence over public office and organized labor.

A neighborhood grocer

Bruno Roti Sr. visited Chicago in 1901, then returned eight years later for good, according to the passenger manifest of the ship -- named La Bretagne -- that brought him to America when he was 28.

Roti passed through Ellis Island in the spring of 1909 on his way to Chicago to join his two brothers and his pregnant wife's siblings. Wife Marianna Bertucci Roti and the couple's two sons stayed behind in Simbario, joining Roti in Chicago seven months later, according to his petitions for citizenship.

Roti Sr. became a grocer, operating a store in the 2100 block of South Wentworth, according to a Chicago city directory from 1917.

Chicago -- booming with hundreds of thousands of immigrants -- was a brutal place, with gangland killings, immigrants preying upon each other, rampant vice.

Roti Sr. himself was arrested twice in murder investigations.

The first time, in 1920, he was picked up with four others in the slaying of labor leader Maurice "Moss'' Enright, according to newspaper accounts. Enright was trying to take over the city's street sweeper union. Police suspected Roti had disposed of the sawed-off shotgun that was used to kill Enright. But he was never charged.

As Prohibition-era violence raged, Roti Sr. was charged in a killing in 1931, according to newspaper accounts. At the time, he was 51 and the father of 10 children. One of his sons, then 10 years old, was Fred Bruno Roti, who would grow up to be a powerful Chicago alderman -- and, according to the FBI, a "made" member of the mob.

The victim was Johnny Genero, a gangster who was driving to his mother's house with another man when his car was trapped by another car at 29th and Normal. Genero was shot in the head. He died instantly. His companion wasn't harmed.

Police arrested Roti Sr., described in newspaper reports as a saloonkeeper, and four others, including James Belcastro. Belcastro, nicknamed "King of the Bombers,'' had been arrested more than 150 times. Among his alleged crimes: the 1928 murder of a political candidate and the operation of a bomb factory. He wasn't convicted in either case.

Belcastro was often referred in newspaper stories as Chicago's "Public Enemy No. 4,'' and as a "pineapple thrower'' -- a flip reference to persistent allegations he threw bombs at homes or businesses. The Chicago Daily News decreed he was "head of the bombmaking division of Capone Inc.''

A few weeks after Genero's murder, prosecutors dropped all charges against Roti, Belcastro and the others. No one was ever convicted of Genero's murder.

When Belcastro would be arrested, Roti Sr.'s wife sometimes put up her family's home to bail Belcastro out of jail. Or her brother Bruno Bertucci would. In fact, the Rotis and Bertuccis often put up their homes to bail people out of jail, among them Bruno Roti Sr. himself, according to Cook County property deeds.

Rejected, twice, for citizenship

Roti applied twice during Prohibition to become an American citizen. The first time, he was rejected for "ignorance,'' the second for not having "five years good character.''

Finally, 36 years after he moved to America, Roti was granted citizenship in 1945, a few months after World War II ended. One of his character witnesses was John Budinger, the alderman of the 1st Ward, the hand-picked successor of Michael "Hinky Dink'' Kenna, the infamously corrupt alderman who'd served during Prohibition.

Chicago's 1st Ward -- which included the Loop and Near South Side -- had long been ruled by the mob, which had a hand in everything from gambling to politics to development. Eleven years after Bruno Roti Sr.'s death, his son Fred became the 1st Ward alderman, a job he eventually gave up when he got caught taking bribes.

Son-in-law takes over

When Bruno Roti Sr. died, his criminal empire went to Frank "Skid'' Caruso, who had married Roti's daughter Catherine in 1934, according to FBI reports.

According to an FBI report dated Feb. 25, 1966, "His 'clout' comes from the fact he is the son-in-law of BRUNO ROTI referred to as 'MUSTACHE.'

"It has previously been reported that CARUSO is the leader of rackets and organized crime in that area and gets a piece of all action taking place there," the report said, referring to Chinatown.

Another FBI report, from Oct. 20, 1969, said: "CARUSO characterized as formerly a 'baggage thief' and was nothing until he married into the Bruno Roti family."

Caruso was a onetime patronage worker for the city street department. He served in the Army during World War II, was wounded in France and received a Purple Heart -- a fact his son Bruno proudly noted during a deposition six years ago.

Taking over from his father-in-law, Caruso concentrated on illegal gambling, including "juice loans" -- illegal, high-interest loans often made to gamblers. A craps game Caruso ran in Chinatown in 1962 was "one of the biggest and best in the entire Chicago area,'' an informant told the FBI.

"Bruno Roti had considerable wealth and property and cash in that area and this wealth is still somewhat controlled by [Caruso] in view of his leadership capacity concerning gambling and criminal matters," according to the 1969 FBI report.

On the city payroll

Over the years, many of "Skid" Caruso's relatives held city patronage jobs, usually in the Streets and Sanitation Department. Two of his three sons, two of his brothers, his sister's husband and five of his wife's brothers all had city jobs at some point. Today, he has grandchildren, nieces and nephews -- more than 30 relatives in all, including Carusos, Rotis and other family members -- on the city payroll.

Caruso's older brother, Joe "Shoes" Caruso, made headlines in 1959, when a reporter found him working at a liquor distributorship when he was supposed to be at his city job -- using a hand broom to sweep two city blocks in Chinatown. "Shoes" Caruso didn't bat an eye at getting caught.

"I've been through all this before,'' he told the Chicago Tribune in 1959. "It's always the same -- a lot of wind, and nothing ever happens. Wait and see. There still will be payrollers after all of us are dead and gone.''

Thirty-two years later, "Skid'' Caruso's oldest son, Peter, and other relatives got caught up in a similar scandal involving city workers assigned to sweep streets with brooms. Once again, city officials found they weren't working eight hours a day.

"Skid" Caruso's gambling associates also landed city jobs, thanks to Caruso's brother-in-law, Frank Roti, according to an FBI report filed shortly after Roti's funeral in 1966. "Frank Roti held a city job most of his life and was responsible for hiring many individuals who assisted Caruso in racket operations," the FBI said.

Why 'Skid?'

The FBI had two versions of how "Skid" Caruso got his nickname, according to its files. One said it was due to his "association with the Skid Row element." The other said it was a shortened version of "Machine Gun Skid," which he was called in his younger days, when he "committed numerous acts of terrorism,'' according to an Oct. 20, 1966, FBI report.

Caruso was arrested at least 10 times, mostly on gambling charges, but never convicted, according to his FBI file. In 1965, Chicago Police arrested him on gambling charges, but the case was dropped after prosecutors discovered that evidence had been "lost or misplaced," according to the FBI.

"I know the system must be working if my father never did a day in jail ... for organized crime," his son Bruno Caruso said in a 2000 deposition.

"Skid'' Caruso's gambling crew included his brother, Morris "Mutt'' Caruso, and their sister's husband, Dominick Scalfaro, who were arrested in separate gambling cases in the 1960s. "Mutt'' Caruso's case was dismissed. Scalfaro was convicted, but the case was dismissed on appeal.

Caruso died in 1983 at 71. Fourteen years later, his grandson and namesake, Frank Caruso, was charged with beating Lenard Clark, a black teenager who had come into the Carusos' neighborhood. Frank Caruso was convicted of aggravated battery and sentenced to eight years in prison.

His trial brought the close-knit family even closer together, as relatives defended the young man, arguing that reporters unfairly portrayed him as a racist.

Caruso's father, Frank "Toots" Caruso, wrote to the judge, asking for leniency. He described Sunday gatherings at the home of his mother, Catherine Roti Caruso, Bruno Roti Sr.'s daughter and matriarch of the family. The elder Caruso wrote that his son "speaks to his Nana with reverence. I have let him know that she is 87-years-old and any day could be her last. We all eat at Nana's house every Sunday. She cooks for 21 people, but her granddaughters serve and clean up afterward. Frank's job is to set the table the third Sunday of every month."

The grandmother is now 94 years old. She still lives in the Chinatown home where she raised her family, right next door to the home of her late younger brother, Fred Roti, who, as alderman, would take the family farther in politics than any other family member.

A power at City Hall

Roti became 1st Ward alderman in 1968. He soon became one of the most powerful, well-liked and respected members of the City Council. Roti was also a "made member" of the mob, according to the FBI -- a fact not made public until after his death in 1999.

Roti's political career abruptly ended in 1991, when he was charged with taking bribes to fix zoning and court cases. Two years later, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison.

The charges resulted from a federal probe that loosened the mob's political grip over the 1st Ward, including the area controlled by the 26th Street Crew long run by Roti's brother-in-law, "Skid'' Caruso.

"The 26th Street/Chinatown Crew historically was supposedly aligned with the 1st Ward, which was operated and controlled under organized crime auspices . . . and historically has had influence within the city of Chicago government for contracts, jobs with Streets and Sanitation, city contracts for hauling, trucking companies and so on," former FBI Agent John O'Rourke, an expert on the Chicago Outfit, said in a July 1997 deposition in a labor case.

Federal authorities attacked the mob's hold on Chicago politics with the help of Robert Cooley, a Chicago cop-turned-mob-lawyer who secretly recorded conversations with politicians and judges. Federal agents also hid a listening device in a booth at the old Counsellor's Row, a restaurant and 1st Ward mob hangout that was across from City Hall.

The investigation found that the powerhouse in Chicago's mob politics was Pat Marcy, who held the unassuming title of secretary of the 1st Ward Democratic Organization but whose power was vast. Marcy took bribes and doled out city contracts and jobs, fixed criminal and civil cases, and bribed politicians and judges, according to testimony at Roti's trial. Roti was alderman, but he answered to Marcy.

'Nobody gets hurt'

Roti reveled in his reputation as the mob's voice on the City Council. During Roti's re-election campaigns, the joke around City Hall was "Vote for Roti, and Nobody Gets Hurt.'' And Roti shared in the laugh.

He was elected alderman in 1968 and held the job until he resigned in 1991, when he was indicted. He'd been a state senator from 1950 to 1956. When he left the Senate, he was a patronage worker in the city's Sewer Department.

Over the years, Roti often was asked about his many relatives working for the city. "So I have some relatives on the payroll," Roti said in 1981. "They're doing an excellent job."

That comment came a year after his son -- city employee Bruno F. Roti -- was indicted in a police motor-pool scandal, charged with billing the city for work done on Bruno Roti's own car. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to a work-release program for six months and fined $5,000.

Ald. Roti also faced criticism that he helped steer the city's trucking business to his nephews -- including Fred Bruno Barbara, who would make a fortune off city business.

When Roti died, his family and friends jammed the streets of Chinatown for a funeral procession similar to his father's 42 years earlier. His longtime friend, Ald. Bernard Stone (50th), made sure everyone knew the role Roti played in Chicago history.

"Our skyline should say 'Roti' on it,'' Stone said at the funeral. "If not for Fred Roti, half the buildings in the Loop would never have been built."

Roti, his father Bruno Roti Sr. and brother-in-law Frank "Skid" Caruso are buried together at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside. Roti Sr. is interred in a stone mausoleum -- one of the most ornate, intricately carved edifices in the cemetery. It towers over the graves of his relatives. To the right is the grave of Ald. Fred Roti; to the left, "Skid'' Caruso. Other relatives are buried nearby.

At Christmas, fresh wreaths decorated each grave. A large one with a red bow was hanging on Roti Sr.'s mausoleum.

Nearly 50 years after his death, Bruno Roti Sr. hasn't been forgotten.

Thanks to Tim Novak, Robert C. Herguth, and Steve Warmbir

Crime Family Index