Friday, July 30, 2010

Joey Doves’ Description

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Joey AiuppaHere is the physical description of the Outfit’s former top boss, Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, who served in that capacity from the early 1970s until he was sent to federal prison in 1986 for skimming Las Vegas casinos.

This physical description is from the background report in his FBI file for the year 1960.


NAME - Joseph John Aiuppa

ALIASES - Joey Aiuppa, Joey Aiuppi, Joey O’Brien, J. Brein

RACE - White

SEX - Male

DATE OF BIRTH - December 1, 1907

PLACE OF BIRTH - Melrose Park, Illinois

HEIGHT - 5’5½”

WEIGHT - 180 pounds

BUILD - Stocky

HAIR - Brown, graying, bald on top

EYES - Brown, wears glasses


SCARS & MARKS - 3” scar right side of jaw; ½” V cut scar right ear lobe; operation scar - abdomen


RESIDENCE - 4 Yorkshire Drive, Elmhurst, Illinois

There is another interesting note detailed in his FBI file in the same background report.

An informant claimed Aiuppa supplied guns to the John Dillinger gang. The informant also claimed Aiuppa helped bury Dillinger gang member John “Red” Hamilton in the vicinity of Aurora, Illinois, after he was mortally wounded by FBI agents during a 1934 shootout.

As Depression Era outlaw history buffs well know, federal agents dug up Red Hamilton’s lye-covered body in a three-foot-deep grave near Oswego, Illinois, more than a year later.

The village of Oswego is located a few miles southeast of Aurora.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

1 Comments Links to this post

Monday, July 26, 2010

Did you know . . .

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Ken EtoChicago gangster turn mob rat Ken Eto, known in the media as “Toyko Joe” and by Outfit guys as “Joe the Jap,” was in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War?

It’s true. He was. It happened before he became a top Outfit gambling boss.

Ken Eto was born in Livingston, California, on October 19, 1919, to Mamoru and Kura Eto, immigrants from the Japanese city of Taketa, Ōita. Mamoru, the family patriarch, was an educated man who became a minister after arriving in San Francisco and witnessing the depravity of Japanese railroad workers gambling all their money away.

How ironic: The father becomes a minister because he is appalled at gambling while his son becomes a gambling boss for the Chicago mob.

Once the family moved to Pasadena, Mamoru Eto started his own ministry — the First Japanese Nazarene Church — and began holding weekend sermons in his living room. His family eventually swelled to nine children — with Ken Eto the second oldest and the first to be born in the U.S. In 1936, the family matriarch, Kura, became ill and returned to Japan, where she died in 1942 at the age of 48.

Ken Eto dropped out of high school after his first year. Next began a succession of odd jobs as a waiter, farm hand, and, eventually, a semi-skilled meat cutter. His father tried to keep him on the straight and narrow with the teachings of the Bible. The young man presumably felt the pressure of being a minister’s son and took off on his own.

His arrest record provides a brief glimpse of his travels in the Pacific Northwest. In 1942, he was first picked up in Portland, Oregon, for “inquiry.” His first criminal conviction also occurred in 1942 in Tacoma, Washington. Finally, he was taken into custody for breaking the curfew law for Japanese-Americans in the western coastal states during the war.

In the spring of 1942, Ken Eto, his father, and six of his brothers and sisters were sent to the Tulare Assembly Center located in Tulare, California. There the Eto family stayed for five months while the government hastily constructed 10 camps located in remote areas of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The camps would operate from 1942 to 1946 and were alternately known as relocation camps, detention camps, or internment camps. Officially, they were called “relocation centers” and the Japanese-Americans placed in the camps were officially called “evacuees.”

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The order authorized the Army to “designate military areas” where “any persons may be excluded.” The camps were reserved for Japanese-Americans living in the “military exclusion area” on the West Coast.

The camps opened a mere two months after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. They were like prisons: surrounded by high fences topped with barb wire and guarded by armed soldiers. What set the camps apart from prisons were the inmates. Men, women, and children — entire families — were imprisoned in the camps.

Approximately 112,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to the scattered detention camps. About 70,000 of those detainees were U.S. citizens. Half were children.

Since Ken Eto was detained in Seattle, he was separated from his family and sent to the 33,000-acre Minidoka Relocation Center compound located in the desert in south central Idaho. Japanese-Americans sent to Minidoka primarily resided in the regional areas of Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

One of the Minidoka detainees later said: “I remember thinking, ‘If I could just go over that fence and over those mountains, there would be the ocean and I would be home.’”

Minidoka opened on August 10, 1942, and closed on October 28, 1945. At its peak, the population there rose to 9,397 detainees.

Mamoru Eto and his six remaining children were sent to the Gila River Relocation Center near Phoenix, Arizona. At its peak, Gila River's population rose to 13,340 detainees. Mamoru Eto tried to make the best out of a bad situation. He started the first garden in the barren desert at Gila River. He also started church services and Sunday school classes.

Hitoko “Helen” Eto, the eldest Eto child, visited her family as often as she could. She and two other adult Eto children decided to leave the West Coast on their own after the signing of Executive Order 9066. (This was temporarily allowed as an alternative to internment.)

“It was horrible,” Helen Eto later recalled of her visits to Gila River. “It was so hot.”

A year after the camps were opened, the detainees were asked to take a loyalty oath. They were asked to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and forswear any allegiance to the emperor of Japan.

“We came to America,” Mamoru Eto later recalled. “We’re not Japanese anymore. We’re American. Of course, I think about Japan when it comes to inochi [life] or defending [one's country]. That’s where I put my efforts — with America . . . There’s no other way. I never doubted it . . . It was absolutely uncalled for to be put in a camp, inside the wire fence, and with a soldier with a gun in a tower.”

In late 1944, the Etos detained at Gila River were released once Mamoru Eto was allowed to leave the camp to work at a prominent frozen-food processing plant in Cumberland County, New Jersey. He took two of his sons with him to New Jersey and sent his daughters to live with Helen Eto in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1988, forty-two years after closing the camps, Congress enacted legislation to compensate the detainees by providing $20,000 to each one still living or to their heirs. It is unknown if Ken Eto received compensation, for he entered the Witness Relocation Program in 1983 after the Outfit failed to kill him in a botched hit. However, his father, Mamoru, received compensation in 1990 at the age of 107. In fact, he was the very first recipient of the redress checks.

At the historic ceremony in the Great Hall at the Department of Justice Main Building in Washington, D.C. on October 9, 1990, Mamoru Eto delivered the invocation in Japanese from his wheelchair after Attorney General Richard Thornburgh presented an apology letter to him along with his $20,000 check. The apology letter was signed by then-President George H.W. Bush.

“By finally admitting a wrong,” declared Attorney General Thornburgh, “a nation does not destroy its integrity, but, rather, reinforces the sincerity of its commitment to the Constitution and, hence, to its people.”

Mamoru Eto died on February 16, 1992 — just thirteen days after his 109th birthday — while his son was still in hiding in the Witness Security Program.

Ken Eto first became involved in gambling while detained at Minidoka. The highly-intelligent man in his early 20s became a card sharp and cheated fellow detainees at poker. He actually learned how to shoot craps on the train ride to Minidoka.

Once released from Minidoka, he slowly drifted from Idaho to Illinois, spending some time along the way in Montana, where he picked up the alias Joe Montana. He arrived in the Windy City in the late 1940s and quickly became involved with the Outfit due to his gambling.

By the mid-1950s, Eto’s benefactor in the Outfit was powerful North Side boss Rosario Priolo, better known as Ross Prio. The aging Sicilian mob boss would watch over and protect Eto until he died of natural causes in Florida in 1972.

Eto came to prominence in the Outfit in the late 1950s when he assisted in a bloody takeover of Chicago’s lucrative Puerto Rican-run bolita gambling business.

It was in 1958 that he set up a Puerto Rican bolita operator who refused to join the Outfit’s growing bolita gambling portfolio led by West Side boss Fiore “Fifi” Buccieri. The man was sliced and diced and dumped into a vacant lot with his intestines spilling out by the LaPietra brothers — “Angelo the Hook” and “Jimmy the Lapper” — of 26th Street crew fame, who then worked as enforcers for Buccieri.

In addition to bolita, Eto controlled policy games for the Outfit in cooperation with black street-gang members. He set up three more hits for Outfit killers in the 1960s, all three killings related to the bolita business. By the early 1980s, he was financing a Los Angeles-to-Chicago cocaine-trafficking ring as a sideline.

After nearly thirty years busting his hump and making millions for the Outfit, Eto was betrayed following his guilty plea in a federal gambling case in mid-January 1983. The Outfit bosses — primarily Vincent “Vince Innocence” Solano, who succeeded Ross Prio as North Side boss when he died and inherited all of his interests, including Eto — feared the guilty plea was just the first step in Eto’s plan of cooperating with the government and turning against the Outfit as a star prosecution witness. Solano got the OK to put into motion his own preemptive steps to take Eto out.

On February 10, 1983, Eto was shot three times in the back of the head by two members of the Rush Street crew. He was instructed to pick up the two men by Joseph “Caesar” DiVarco, Vince Solano’s street boss in charge of the Rush Street crew. After picking up the pair in his car, he proceeded to a restaurant for a prearranged meeting with Vince Solano, but it was all a double-crossing ruse to set him up and kill him.

The two Rush Street goons instructed Eto to pull into a parking lot, then shot him and left him for dead, slumped over in the front seat of his car. Some way or another, the bullets failed to penetrate his skull. His two would-be killers would pay dearly for this blunder — with the forfeiture of their own lives.

After the failed attempt on his life, Ken Eto joined Team America and was whisked away into the Witness Security Program with a new name: Joe Tanaka. He spent the better part of a decade testifying against Outfit members as “a virtual roving ambassador of stool pigeondom, testifying at mob cases in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Chicago,” proclaimed the Chicago Sun-Times in 1989.

The U.S. Marshals Service reportedly moved him around a lot before he settled in Norcross, Georgia, a small town near Atlanta. He spent the last decade or so of his life living there quietly, fishing and keeping up with sports. He died in Norcross on January 23, 2004, at the ripe old age of 84.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

1 Comments Links to this post

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bullets for the Bomber

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Jimmy Catuara“What the hell, they better be fair . . . Anytime you got anything coming to you, you better get it, right to the penny.”

So declared old-time gangster James “Jimmy the Bomber” Catuara in 1964 to an associate concerning an unpaid debt. He didn’t know his words were being secretly recorded by an illegal FBI listening device.

More than a decade after making that declaration, rumor had it that Jimmy Catuara was shorting his own mob superiors, not paying the Outfit bosses their full share of the proceeds from rackets he oversaw as a mid-level mob leader.

By the late 1970s, Catuara went back ages with the Outfit. All the way back when he was a kid growing up on Chicago’s Near South Side. He knew full well what the Outfit was capable of. He’d committed horrific crimes himself throughout his 50 years in the mob. His long journey led to where he sat on a summer morning in 1978 — behind the wheel of a red Cadillac, waiting for a friend.

Born in 1905, Catuara (often misspelled Catura) earned his nickname (and his feared reputation) blowing up taxicabs during Chicago’s perennial Taxi Wars of the 1920s and ’30s. In 1933, the 27-year-old up-and-coming mob terrorist was busted for possessing a dynamite bomb.

At the time of his arrest, Catuara was said be working for Near South Side crime lord James “King of the Bombers” Belcastro, who headed Al Capone’s bomb squad in the 1920s during the height of Prohibition Era warfare in Chicago. He was subsequently convicted on that bomb charge and sentenced to serve a 5-to-25-year prison term. He served eight years in Joliet State Prison and was paroled in 1942.

Thanks to that conviction, he became known as Jimmy the Bomber. Through the years, he slowly but surely became a member of good standing with the Chicago Heights crew, based out of the vice-ridden southern suburbs.

Standing 5-foot-5, weighing 160 pounds, and sporting a shiny, horseshoe-bald head, Catuara, who was also known as “the Owl,” didn’t look like much, but looks can be deceiving. He was reputed to be a hitman, was a powerful Mafia leader in northern Illinois, and was recognized as the top street boss of Frank LaPorte, the boss of the Chicago Heights crew.

As a leading disciple of the LaPorte mob, Catuara ran his own crew of tough guys. His fiefdom was based on Chicago’s Southwest Side and stretched into the southwestern suburbs. He and his underlings specialized in the traditional mob staples of gambling, loansharking, and extortion. All the while, the aging mob terrorist would tell outsiders that he made his living as a furniture salesman.

When LaPorte retired in the mid-1960s, some claim Catuara briefly took over the Chicago Heights crew. However, by the close of the 1960s, LaPorte’s former bodyguard and driver, Alfred Pilotto, was the big boss in the Heights and Catuara was again a street boss, reporting to Pilotto. Perhaps Catuara being briefly identified as the boss of the Chicago Heights crew was a simple mistake, just bad information from a snitch.

In the late 1960s, Catuara’s crew began to move heavily into the so-called “chop shop” racket, i.e., stealing cars, disassembling them, and selling the parts on the black market. Fellow Chicago Heights crew member Albert Caesar Tocco had originally gotten the Chicago Heights crew into the stolen-car business, but he got busted for running an interstate stolen-car ring and received a 3-year prison sentence in 1967.

Catuara’s crew was in competition with Al Tocco’s crew until Catuara got the upper hand when Tocco finally went to prison after his appeals ran out. Catuara’s reign in that business lasted several years until Tocco’s parole in 1973. “Lining up” the chop shops for the Outfit was now Catuara’s primary vocation.

Beginning in 1969 and lasting until at least 1980, there were about 20 murders connected to what became known as the “Chop Shop Wars” — bloody battles fought on city streets as the Outfit conquered the chop-shop business throughout the Chicago area, which, for the most part, was concentrated in Chicago Heights crew turf in the southern suburbs.

Chop-shop operators and auto thieves who refused to pay a street tax to the Outfit were killed, people in the business who were suspected of being police informants were killed, rival mobsters eventually turned the guns on each other and still more were killed.

It was Jimmy Catuara who started all of this chop-shop mayhem, but he wouldn’t be around to see it finished.

Within a few years after Tocco’s parole, he and Catuara were locked in a power struggle, allegedly over Catuara’s repeated intrusions into Tocco’s territory.

Law enforcement officers assigned to investigate the chop-shop racket in the Chicago area who couldn’t be bribed were intimidated by the crazed crews led by Catuara and Tocco. Most troublesome was an offensive against the Secretary of State’s Northern Illinois Auto Investigations Unit. In 1973, Lieutenant Vladimir Ivkovich became the commander of that 12-man unit. Within five years, Ivkovich’s life would be a living hell.

One night in early 1978, the rear window of Lieutenant Ivkovich’s squad car was shot out while parked in front of his house in Chicago. That was only the beginning. Two months after that, his car was tampered with — a tie-rod was loosened on the car’s rear axel, which would have caused an accident had he not noticed something was wrong with the car’s braking system as he backed it out of his driveway.

Early one morning a couple months later, Ivkovich was awakened by his barking poodle. He got up quickly, hurried into his kitchen, flicked on the outside lights, and opened his back door. When he opened the door to look around outside, he slid a pipe bomb off the top of the doorsteps. First he heard the clank of metal, then he saw the bomb lying on the ground with a smoking fuse. He immediately grabbed his wife and daughter, and ran out of the house to safety before summoning the Chicago Police Department’s Bomb and Arson Squad.

The bomb was disarmed and Ivkovich was informed by a police sergeant that he was lucky. The fuse was deactivated when the bomb fell off the steps. He was told that there was only a minute’s worth of fuse left. Had it exploded, the bomb — packed with black powder and shrapnel — would have been powerful enough to destroy the back side of his house. It was also pointed out that the explosion could have ignited a gas line running into his kitchen and blown up the whole house as he and his family slept. The alert dog quite possibly saved the lives of the Ivkovich family.

A month after the bombing attempt at his home, Vladimir Ivkovich suffered a gall bladder attack caused by excessive nerve tension and underwent emergency surgery. It took him seven weeks to recuperate before he could return to work and chase after the Outfit’s fearsome enforcers and the chop-shop underworld — and the trail of death, destruction, and misery those parasites of society left in their wake.

Ivkovich wasn’t the only one from the Northern Illinois Auto Investigations Unit who was targeted, either. Three of his investigators also had the back windows of their squad cars shot out while parked in front of their homes and another investigator’s car was set on fire.

In 1979, Ivkovich testified before a Senate subcommittee investigating the chop-shop business.

“My six years as commander of the unit represent the most trying and demanding period of my life,” he told shocked Senators, who listened in disbelief at what he’d gone through just doing his job as an officer of the law.

“Chicago has become the chop-shop capital of the world,” he testified, matter-of-factly.

Despite his family’s opinion that he should resign, Chicago’s chop-shop underworld was unsuccessful in scaring heroic Vladimir Ivkovich into leaving them alone.

At the time of his Senate testimony, Lieutenant Ivkovich was still bravely heading the Northern Illinois Auto Investigations Unit. However, he told the Senators that he had become a very cautious man. He said he now always made sure to search under his car for explosives before going anywhere and that now he not only carried his gun when on duty, but he carried it with him twenty-four hours a day, wherever he went — even when he took his family out to eat.

Things were even worse for Jimmy Catuara by the time 1978 rolled around.

Earlier, in 1977, the Outfit bosses tried to stop the Chop Shop Wars by inserting a beefy hoodlum named Angelo “the Hook” LaPietra as the new overlord of that racket with Al Tocco. The bosses replaced Catuara with LaPietra. They made the move in hopes of stability.

Angelo LaPietra ran the powerful 26th Street crew on Chicago’s South Side. He had a ferocious reputation as one of the most feared and brutal killers in the Outfit.

LaPietra’s newly-selected position was a clear message to those involved in the Chop Shop Wars to stop fighting and tone down the violence. The heat from investigations into that racket was hurting other mob businesses. The mayhem had to come to an end or at least slow down considerably.

Perhaps another reason for Catuara’s demotion were rumors that the Outfit bosses believed Catuara was holding back on some of the chop shop millions. He’d been a loyal Outfit servant for far too long to just have him whacked out like that, however. The bosses didn’t want him dead, but they did want him out of Chicago.

One night, mob enforcers snatched Catuara. They locked him in the trunk of a car for twelve hours. They opened the trunk and looked down at him.

“Now we just gave you a message,” one of them told him. “Why don’t you go to Arizona and retire.”

Catuara was bothered by sinus trouble and already went to Tucson at least once a year to clear out his sinuses in the dry desert heat. The bosses knew this and advised him to stay there permanently.

But Catuara wasn’t the type of guy who would allow himself to be pushed out and into early retirement. He refused to take their advice and leave Chicago. Then a rumor hit the street that he was an informant. Whether true or not, that was the last straw.

At about 7:00 a.m. on July 28, 1978 — just twenty days after the attempted bombing of Vladimir Ivkovich’s house — 72-year-old Jimmy Catuara, now a has-been syndicate kingpin, was sitting in his red Cadillac waiting for a friend at an intersection in an industrial area on Chicago’s Near West Side.

Like an hourglass with a few grains of sand left to fall, time was running out on Jimmy the Bomber. The last moments of his life were about to play out, and they wouldn’t be pretty. As they say, you reap what you sow.

At least two men were watching Catuara from inside a blue van and they decided his time was up. They hopped out of the van, guns in hand. They approached the Cadillac on either side and riddled the old gangster with a volley of bullets. Hit multiples times, he managed to crawl across the front seat and open the passenger door. He collapsed out of his car, falling into a bloody stupor on some overgrown weeds beyond the curb.

As Catuara lay bleeding, face-down on the ground, the gunman on the passenger side shot him one last time in the back. Finally, he lay still. He was hit five times: twice in the head and once each in the face and neck before the finishing shot to the back.

The hitmen ran back to the van and fled. A few blocks away, they abandoned the van for another vehicle. As the hit team melted back into the city, their well-dressed victim lay sprawled out, dead. If only he’d listen to his superiors, he wouldn’t have died the way he did: gunned down in the street.

Jimmy Catuara’s murder — preceded by the slayings of several of his most-loyal crew members — effectively ended the Tocco-Catuara rivalry in the chop-shop business. For many years after that, Angelo LaPietra and Al Tocco ran the whole thing. The murders didn’t stop, but they sure slowed down a lot once Catuara was out of the picture.

By the time of his gangland slaying, Chicago area car thieves were grossing an estimated $44 million and stealing 48,000 cars a year. That equaled more than $120,000 in gross profits a day. The Outfit received a huge chunk of that revenue, many millions a year — all thanks to the cold-blooded efforts of Jimmy “the Bomber” Catuara and other mob terrorists like him.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

3 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gangland Murders, 1977

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

According to Chicago Crime Commission records, there were sixteen gangland murders throughout the Chicago area in 1977. That was the worst year since 1935, when there were seventeen gangland murders throughout the Chicago area.

In brief, the victims:

Feb. 12 - James Villarreal, age 24, found stabbed to death in an alley

Feb. 12 - Sam Rivera, age 27, fatally shot in a tavern (his wife was also wounded)

Mar. 4 - Patrick Marusarz, age 21, shot five times while playing cards with three others

Mar. 15 - Henry Cosentino, age 52, found in a car trunk, missing since end of Jan.

Mar. 29 - Chuckie Nicoletti, age 60, shot three times in the back of the head in his car

Apr. 4 - John Lourgos, age 53, gunned down with a shotgun

June 13 - Richard Ferraro, age 36, reported missing following day, never found

June 14 - Thomas McCarthy, age 37, found in a car trunk, shot in the back of the head

June 15 - Joseph Theo, age 33, found in the back seat of a car, shotgunned in the head, disappeared two days earlier

July 3 - John Schneider, age 27, shot in the head, wrapped in plastic, found in car trunk, went missing end of June

July 12 - Earl Abercrombie Jr., age 34, shot twice in the head, found in car trunk, disappeared five days earlier

July 13 - Morris Saletko, age 63, shot to death, found in car trunk

July 22 - Mark Thanasouras, age 49, cut down by shotgun blasts while walking with a woman friend

July 25 - Sam Annerino, age 34, blown away in the street by five blasts of a shotgun

Aug. 25 - James Palaggi, age 44, found in the back of his van, shot, wrapped in plastic, missing for a week

Dec. 13 - Leo Filippi, age 43, found lying on the floarboard of a car’s back seat, shot to death

Sixteen murders. No arrests, no convictions.

Only in Chicago.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

13 Comments Links to this post

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tony the Head-lum

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Tony GranitoCheck out “Tony the Head” here on the left. You can see how he got his nickname. That’s a noggin!

Tony the Head’s real name was Anthony James Granito, alias Tony Granato, Genero, and Marino. According to published reports, he was a syndicate loanshark, gambling boss, and “top aid” of Cicero mob boss Joey Aiuppa in the 1960s, before Aiuppa became the Outfit’s top boss in the early 1970s.

Born in 1918, Granito was convicted in 1941 on armed robbery charges and served three years in the slam. Assault and battery, disorderly conduct, and numerous gambling arrests peppered his rap sheet throughout the years.

In the late 1960s, Granito got to brainstorming with that big head of his and came up with a new sideline. Next thing mob watchers knew, the Cicero hoodlum was a real estate tycoon, with holdings in the Bahamas. No taxes in the Bahamas sounded great to him. His good fortune was cut short with an indictment and conviction in 1970 on charges of falsifying applications for thousands of dollars in loans. Back to jail he went. Aw schucks!

According to Outfit soldier turn mob rat Nick Calabrese, the January 31, 1978, double murder of burglars Vincent Moretti and Donald Renno was committed inside Granito’s Cicero restaurant. As detailed in a lengthy article on this site, Moretti was punished for burglarizing the suburban home of Outfit boss of bosses Tony Accardo and Renno was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By 1978, Tony Granito was 60 years old and not involved in that kind of stuff, so he wasn’t at his restaurant at the time of the murders. Perhaps his pals didn’t even tell him why they wanted to use his restaurant that blistering cold Tuesday night.

Tony Granito, who gave new meaning to the word headstrong, died at the age of 65 in 1983.

OK, so his head’s not that big.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

0 Comments Links to this post

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Outfit never forgets

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Louis M. “Lou” Bombacino was a bookie — little more than a sheet writer who took bets for mob gambling bosses. However, he swam in a pond that included some big fish. He was in and out of jail and prison for the majority of his life, including arrests for theft, robbery, and extortion. He mostly ran with the suburban Elmwood Park crew led by John P. “Jackie the Lackey” Cerone Sr.

In addition to Elmwood Park and other northwestern suburbs, Jackie Cerone also controlled a swathe of the West Side from the Chicago River west to Harlem Avenue and north of the Eisenhower Expressway. As a protégé of powerful mob advisors Anthony J. (Tony) Accardo and Paul “the Waiter” Ricca, he was one of the bigger bosses in the Outfit by the 1960s. As a matter of fact, he became the top boss after Salvatore “Sam” Battaglia Jr. went to prison in 1967. Like Battaglia, his tenure at the top would be brief — cut short by his indictment in a federal case in 1969, courtesy of Lou Bombacino.

The genesis of the case began when Bombacino was in jail on robbery charges in June 1965. He was in his early 40s and sick of his lowly life of crime. The FBI visited him in jail and agreed to help him get probation in his robbery case in exchange for becoming a paid informant for them. The FBI knew about mob leaders, specifically Jackie Cerone, siding against Bombacino in a dispute with another mobster and thought he would be susceptible to their overtures. They were correct in their assumption.

Bombacino accepted the FBI’s deal, got out of jail, and immediately began helping them build a case against Jackie Cerone and others. Eventually indicted with Cerone were three prominent gambling bosses from a West Side crew led by Fiore “Fifi” Buccieri. They were Joseph A. “Joe Nick” Ferriola, Donald J. “The Wizard of Odds” Angelini, and Dominic “Large” Cortina. Also ensnared in the case was Cerone’s cousin, James “Tar Baby” Cerone, and Bombacino’s mob sponsor, Frank A. “the Knife” Aureli, both members of the Elmwood Park crew.

For a little more than two years between the time of his cooperation in 1965 until the summer of 1967, Bombacino worked as a mob bookie, passing on information and collecting evidence for the FBI. By August 1967, the FBI felt there was enough to convict who they wanted to convict, so they took Bombacino off the street. He was given a new name — Joseph Nardi — and relocated with his wife and teenage son to Buckeye, Arizona, near Phoenix. The FBI also got him a job as a warehouseman at Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), one of Arizona’s power and natural gas utilities.

Next, the agents began putting together their case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which began analyzing the case to prepare an indictment for the grand jury. Finally, on August 19, 1969, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was ready to submit the case to the grand jury. An indictment was returned against Jackie Cerone, Joe Ferriola, Don Angelini, Dom Cortina, Tar Baby Cerone, and Frank Aureli on interstate gambling charges.

Thanks primarily to Lou Bombacino’s testimony, all of the defendants were convicted on May 9, 1970 — with the exception of Frank Aureli, who was severed from the trial when he underwent an emergency operation for appendicitis during the trial. (Aureli later received an 18-month prison sentence.)

One noteworthy part of the trial occurred when Paul Ricca was subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution. On April 28, Ricca was rolled into the courtroom in a wheelchair and forced to admit under a grant of immunity that he associated with Jackie Cerone, which helped put another nail into Cerone’s legal coffin. His testimony was needed to confirm that Cerone and Bombacino knew each other.

Ricca had first-hand knowledge about the connection between Cerone and Bombacino. He was at a suburban restaurant with Cerone on December 28, 1966, when Bombacino met with Cerone.

“I’ve heard nothing but glorious reports about you,” Cerone said to Bombacino.

“He’s OK,” agreed Ricca.

After the jury returned guilty verdicts, the judge denied the five defendants’ bonds on the grounds that they were threats to Bombacino’s safety. The judge read sworn affidavits from FBI agents about Cerone ordering the murder of Bombacino. The judge eventually sentenced each of the men to serve 5-year federal prison terms. They would ultimately serve about three years of that sentence.

After his testimony, Lou Bombacino returned to his family in Arizona and tried to get on with his life. Unfortunately for him, the Outfit found him.

At about 8:30 a.m., on October 6, 1975, Bombacino was backing his car down the driveway of an apartment building where he was now living with his family in Tempe, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb. Suddenly, a bomb detonated and he was killed in an instant. The ground-thundering explosion hurled debris from the car as far as a quarter of a mile away and shattered anywhere from 75 to 100 windows in the apartment complex.

The car-bomb that claimed Bombacino’s life had been upgraded from past Outfit-connected car-bombings. This time, dynamite was replaced by military-grade plastique explosives. Investigators believed the bomb was triggered to electronically detonate from wiring attached to either the accelerator or the steering wheel.

“It was a professional job,” an FBI spokesman in Chicago commented about the bombing. “You got to believe it was the Outfit.”

The car-bombing was big news and sent out a shockwave to other mobsters — warning them yet again what happens to people who cooperate against the Outfit.

Lou Bombacino was exposed by media coverage. His employer — APS — accused him of stealing an expensive piece of equipment. He was suspended from his job and charges were filed against him with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested for theft. The ensuing investigation resulted in his true identity being uncovered and revealed. This caused Bombacino to move from his home in Buckeye to an apartment in Tempe. It turned out to be a false arrest and the actual thief was exposed and charged accordingly.

Bitter by the false arrest and loss of work, Bombacino filed a $4 million lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Blubaum, one of his deputies, and APS for back pay. When they learned about it, the FBI wanted Bombacino relocated again immediately. He rejected the proposition. It was a fatal mistake.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Casey, one of the prosecutors in the Bombacino case who was in private practice by the time of the fatal car bombing, said Bombacino was “a tough little guy who did an awfully difficult job for the government.”

FBI Special Agent turn author William F. (Bill) Roemer Jr., who assisted in the Bombacino case against Jackie Cerone and the others, later wrote that Bombacino was “a real nice guy” and his murder was a “deterrent factor.” He noted: “Obviously, it is very tough to develop sources and witnesses when they find out what happened to guys like Lou Bombacino.”

At the time of his death, Lou Bombacino was 52 years old.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

5 Comments Links to this post

Monday, July 12, 2010

Schweihs report a missed opportunity

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/

Throughout this past decade, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir has covered the local mob very competently. From his contributions to the “Crime Inc.” series and “Chicago’s First Family of Clout” series to his coverage of the Family Secrets trial and its companion “The Outfit on Trial” blog, Warmbir has shown he’s the best mob reporter in Chicago today. His contributions make me think of late, legendary Chicago Sun-Times crime reporters like Sandy Smith and Art Petacque.

That said, I was disappointed by a recent article under Steve Warmbir’s byline.

The Sun-Times requested and received a 531-page FBI subject file of late, prolific Outfit enforcer Frank “the German” Schweihs. Still, with all that raw (albeit redacted) data on Schweihs, Warmbir spent most of his recently published article on Schweihs recalling past interviews, Family Secrets trial testimony, and recorded transcripts from the trial still available online.

In my opinion, what made it into print made this article a missed opportunity.

I expected something more along the lines of the in-depth article written by Warmbir on Joey “the Clown” Lombardo several years ago. Something more out of Schweihs’ FBI file that cannot be found elsewhere would have been nice. Warmbir included little from his background report, which — in my opinion — is always the best part of any FBI subject file. A background report allows a brief glimpse of how these gangsters ended up as . . . well . . . gangsters.

For example, I will note an FBI subject file I received two years ago on a fairly well-known mob leader.

Nothing was known about this particular unnamed mobster’s younger years from published accounts or accessible public records. His background report tells that story. It shows he had gonorrhea when he was 8 years old. He was still in the third grade (and illiterate) at 14 years old, at which time he dropped out of school. That tells a story. That tells you how that guy ended up as a career criminal. He obviously grew up really fast and likely spent the majority of his youth running around on the streets rather than going to school. It tells you how he ended up with an arrest record with more than 50 entries.

Now, what turned Schweihs in that direction? I don’t know. Perhaps this isn’t Warmbir’s fault. Perhaps his editor cut up his article to where it only contained previously known (and published) information on Schweihs. It’s not like Schweihs would sue for defamation of character. One, he’s dead; two, he tried to do that once before and failed.

Back in the early 1990s, Schweihs sued the author and publisher of a book claiming Schweihs killed Miami boat builder Don Aronow. It turns out Schweihs was innocent of this murder. As a matter of fact, the real killers were identified and arrested shortly after the book was published. It was a contract killing, but not a mob hit. A reputed drug smuggler allegedly hired an independent contractor to do the hit. Still, Schweihs lost his lawsuit because the judge ruled that (1) the lawsuit passed the deadline for a libel suit (Schweihs argued he was in prison and didn’t know about the book until the deadline passed) and (2) his character was so bad there was no way it could be defamed any further.

After Schweihs died in the summer of 2008, I debated whether or not to request his FBI file under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA), as the Sun-Times did. I decided not to at the time because I felt I had too many requests pending with the FBI and didn’t want to overextend myself financially.

Eventually, I might request Schweihs’ file once I get some other pending requests off the back burners. If anyone out there wants to make the request and pass along the results, visit the FBI FOIPA website for more information on how to do it. Requests cost 10 cents per page and the first 100 pages are free of charge. Therefore, Schweihs’ 531-page FBI file should cost $43.10.

Will I request it? I don’t know. Maybe some time in the future. Will you request it? If you do, let this site know what you find out. Pay close attention to his background report. There should be some good stuff in it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I admire Steve Warmbir’s reporting. Again, his editor may have trimmed his article down. Also, reporters don’t decide the length of an article. If your paper tells you to write a 1,000-word article, you do it. The Warmbir article on Schweihs comes in it at 912 words. It’s impossible to write anything in-depth on anyone in under 1,000 words. A missed opportunity.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 | J.P. Rich Off The Cuff. All rights reserved.

Visit >>>

0 Comments Links to this post