The Chicago Syndicate: Vincent Solano
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Showing posts with label Vincent Solano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vincent Solano. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tokyo Joe: The Man Who Brought Down the Chicago Mob (Mafia o Utta Otoko)

The yakuza, Japan's homegrown mobsters, are favorites of local filmmakers but not documentarians, for reasons entirely understandable. A documentary that seeks to delve into the inner workings of the Yamaguchi-gumi might find an audience, but the hurdles to making it, such as scouting subjects willing to dish openly (and possibly suicidally) on camera, would be formidable. Better to make another TV-friendly program on tuna fishermen.

Documentarian Ken'ichi Oguri, backed by uber-producers Kazuyoshi Okuyama and Chihiro Kameyama, has finessed this difficulty by focusing his new film, "Tokyo Joe: The Man Who Brought Down the Chicago Mob (Mafia o Utta Otoko)," on Ken Eto — a Japanese-American FBI informant who put 15 Chicago mobsters and mob associates behind bars in the 1980s.

Chicago Mobster Ken Eto AKA Tokyo Joe

Eto was no ordinary snitch. Born in California in 1919 and raised by a harshly disciplinarian father, Eto was a wild, scrappy and highly intelligent kid. He found his true metier in a World War II detention camp, where he fleeced fellow detainees in poker games. After the war, he settled in Chicago, where he honed his skills in card sharping while insinuating himself into the mob-run gambling business.

In 1983, Mafia capo Vincent Solano feared that Eto, recently busted for running a massive numbers operation and out on bail, was going to spill to the cops. He ordered a hit, carried out by two henchmen, who drilled three bullets into Eto's skull in a parked car. Incredibly, Eto survived, and, while recovering in the hospital, decided that Solano's betrayal trumped his loyalty to his Mafia bosses. He entered the FBI's witness protection program and spent the next several years giving testimony that delivered a body blow to the Chicago mob.

Oguri tells this story through interviews, mostly notably with Elaine Smith, the former FBI agent who put Eto behind bars (and later wrote a book about him), Jeremy Margolis, the former federal prosecutor who persuaded Eto to turn snitch, and Steven Eto, Eto's son by his second wife.

These talking heads are fascinating characters in their own right. Smith, who joined the Bureau at the late age of 34 when it was still a mostly male preserve, comes across as a salty, wised-up type, spinning anecdote after engaging anecdote about Eto, his case and the ways of the Chicago mob. Of more than 1,000 victims of mob hits, she claims, Eto was the only one to survive. Steven Eto pungently humanizes his father, who ran numbers out of a coffee shop near home and once memorably told his young son, "If you bring a weapon to a fight, be prepared to kill the guy, because if you don't, you'll have an enemy for the rest of your life."

Eto himself appears only fleetingly on the screen, being badgered by the media after his arrest and testifying as a witness for the prosecution, but he is a riveting presence whose hooded eyes see all but tell nothing. Oguri's film about his exploits is, for anyone interested in Mafia lore, pure manna from wise-guy heaven.

Thanks to Mark Schilling

Friday, April 11, 2008

FBI Secret Files on Mobster Ken Eto

Ken "Tokyo Joe" Eto died four years ago, but the secret files that were kept on him are being revealed for the first time.

The secret files on Tokyo Joe prove that Ken Eto was different than your normal, everyday Chicago mobster.

He ran an Outfit gambling racket in cahoots with black street gang leaders. But most memorable: 25 years ago he became the only Outfit boss to survive a mob hit. In 1983, Ken Eto became the first hoodlum ever to experience a gangland hangover when a half dozen bullets squeezed from a silencer-equipped pistol, somehow ricocheted off his skull. At the time of the botched assassination, FBI agents had been following Eto and typing reports on him since the early 1950s.

What grew into a foot-tall stack of files was just obtained for the first time by the I-Team under the Freedom of Information Act. The records reveal that hundreds of agents in dozens of cities had tried for decades to pin something on Eto, but failed. The FBI list of Eto's numerous aliases may be politically incorrect by today's standards, but tokyo joe's craftiness helped turn an illegal numbers racket into an illicit empire.

"We analyzed it. It was $150,000 to $200,000 a week he was managing," said Elaine Smith, former FBI agent.

We interviewed Smith as she retired from the FBI - her work as case agent on Ken Eto the highlight of her career. According to the secret files of Tokyo Joe, his gambling business known as Bolito thrived on payoffs to Chicago policemen totaling $3,000 a week.

Eto's criminal rap sheet in the file begins in 1942 in Tacoma, Washington, where he was among four Japanese Americans sentenced for violating a wartime curfew. After coming to Chicago in 1949, Eto grew into a mob sleeper boss believed the FBI on a par with the famous New York mafioso Meyer Lansky.

Shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy, federal agents suspicious of a Chicago mob role in the JFK murder questioned Eto about Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. FBI reports say Eto claimed to know nothing.

In 1983 Outfit bosses tried to rub him out for one reason, according to the secret files. Mob bosses feared that since the FBI had caught Eto red-handed running Bolito wagers and he'd pleaded guilty, that he might be tempted to talk. So they gave Eto an invitation he couldn't refuse.

"He knew he had to go to this dinner meeting. He really was 90 percent sure he was going to be shot, so he took a bath and he put on his best clothes, and he told his wife where the insurance policy was," Smith said.

Files reveal Vincent Solano ordered the murder. He was an Outfit capo at the time and head of the corrupt laborers union Local One. After surviving the attack, Eto was hooded when he told a U.S. Senate panel what happened.

Solano died of natural causes, never charged in the Eto attack. The two gunman who tried to kill Tokyo Joe had used bad ammo and soon after were themselves disposed of in a car trunk. Eto then became the government's highest ranking hoodlum ever to turn government witness.

The FBI began a secret investigation that we now know from the files was code-named "Operation Sun-Up" a clever turn on the symbol of Eto's native Japan. And because of his testimony, dozens of top Chicago mob figures were convicted and put away.

Whether or not Eto got his outfit nickname from an old Bogart movie, there will soon be a new movie also called Tokyo Joe. The life story of Ken Eto is being made by Japanese filmmakers and due to be finished next month.

Eto died in 2004 at the age of 84. And even though he survived a gangland hit, he didn't live as long as he thought he would. When he was still in the mob, a smart-aleck Eto told federal agents that he'd be happy to discuss his Outfit business when he was 90 years old and living on a beach somewhere.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Friday, October 07, 1988

Suspected Mob Porn Boss Dies in His Apartment

Michael Glitta, 68, known to law enforcement officials as local overseer of pornography rackets, has died in his apartment at 1221 N. Dearborn St., his attorney, Adam Bourgeois, said Thursday. Glitta, who had a history of heart ailments, suffered a fatal heart attack Wednesday night, according to Bourgeois. Glitta, who operated a magazine sales firm at 1112 N. Milwaukee Ave., had syndicate ties going back nearly 30 years, according to Chicago and federal law enforcement officials.

In 1982, the Chicago Crime Commission said he supervised pornography operations for the mob in an area that ranged from the Near North Side to the Wisconsin state line. Crime Commission records say he got his start in vice rackets by running B-girl strip joints in Chicago and later branched out to embrace X-rated films and cassette tapes. Mob watchers said Glitta reported directly to Vincent Solano, a labor union leader and reputed rackets boss for the North Side and the northern suburbs.

Police and federal officials speculated Thursday that the list of likely successors to Glitta`s porn interests includes Johnny Matassa, a Solano protege, as well as Orlando Catanese and Leo Weintraub, two men described as manufacturers and sellers of books, magazines, films and sexual paraphernalia, and business associates of mob figures. Matassa, 37, recently has been observed regularly accompanying Glitta to meetings with Solano, according to federal investigators. Solano oversees Local 1 of the Laborers Union, and Matassa is a $75,000-a-year executive with Laborers Union Local 2, whose members include sewer and tunnel workers.

Although Glitta was regarded by authorities as the mob`s top man in the distribution of pornography, there have been recent indications his power was waning. A recently disclosed FBI investigation, described in a court affidavit, contended that reputed mob terrorist Frankie Schweihs had moved in on one North Wells Street pornography shop and was planning to take over another. Both would normally have been in Glitta`s territory, police said.

With federal court approval, the FBI secretly taped conversations between Schweihs and a former porn dealer from whom he was collecting protection money on behalf of the mob, the affidavit said. On one tape, the dealer, concerned about being caught in a mob territorial dispute, asked Schweihs to talk to Glitta. Schweihs told him that he didn`t talk to Glitta, but to Glitta`s boss, who was not named in the conversation. As a result of the tapes, Schweihs was charged with extortion.

At the time of his death, Glitta was awaiting trial in Chicago on federal charges of illegally possessing two .38 caliber revolvers. Glitta`s family said a funeral was planned for Monday.

Reported by John O'Brien


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