Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Outfit never forgets

BY J.P. RICH Off The Cuff/ganglandchicagowebsite@yahoo.com

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.

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5 Comments Links to this post


At April 25, 2011 at 8:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes it was right out side my bedroom i wassitting on the end of the bed and it blow me in to the wall yes i remeber it will....

At May 1, 2011 at 9:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i hope in your book to talk about the people that got jacked up, just by being on the side line...
im working on book i have been cut open on my spine more times then i can recall plus then the side bull
of losing my company and the way i live my life i would love to talk

At May 25, 2012 at 12:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a sophmore at Tempe High (About 2 miles away) when we heard the explosion that we later learned was Mr. Bombacino's demise. The apartment complex where it it happened picked up a nickname "The Bombacino Arms (and legs)"

At October 25, 2015 at 2:04 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rick Mr Bombacinos son was a friend of mine.On the day it happened he came by my apt to see if I wanted a ride to school.I was a freshman at Tempe High Rick knew I thought his fathers white Lincoln was a cool car.So on that day his dad didn't have to go in to work early.He said his mother could give us a ride to school. But I needed to take a shower so I told him I would just ride my bike to school and catch him later. So he rode his bike on to school,I jumped in the shower while I was taking my shower the blast came. I put some cloths on and ran outside to see the smoke coming from behind their building. When I ran back there my father was using a wet blanket around him to try to get Mr Bombacino out of the car but it was to hot. After Rick came home from school the FBI let us say goodbye before they relocated them again. I will never forget I could have been in the back seat of that car that day. Someone was watching out for me thank God!

At October 26, 2016 at 2:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a reporter writing about the car bombing of Lou Bombacino for the East Valley Tribune. I'd love to interview anyone living in Tempe at that time. Please contact me at dawson(at)dawsonfearnow.com


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