Sunday, August 29, 2010

Witness to murder

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


Related Post: Did you know . . .

“If you bring a weapon to a fight, be prepared to kill the guy . . . if you don’t, you’ll have an enemy for the rest of your life.”

The above quote is attributed to Outfit gambling boss Ken Eto. It was something he told his son.

In spite of that, he wasn’t an exceedingly violent man, at least by Outfit standards.

He was no Angelo LaPietra. He wasn’t a sadistic killer who hung up his victims on meat hooks while he tortured them to death.

That didn’t mean he was a choir boy, either.

He had a temper. He was not a stranger to fights. At only 5-foot-5, perhaps he was stricken with a short man’s complex.

His temper got the best of him while taking care of some Outfit business in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in late Spring 1962. His wife tagged along for the trip. They stayed at the Caribe Hilton, one of Puerto Rico’s most luxurious resort hotels.

He woke up one evening and discovered his wife was not in their room. He made his way downstairs and spotted her talking to another man. He marched over to confront them.

There was a heated argument between the three of them. It ended when Eto started a fistfight with the man.

After the fight, he was confronted by the hotel staff. He told them to mind their own business, grabbed his wife, and led her back upstairs to their room.

But Ken Eto had darker secrets than quarreling with tourists in the Caribbean. He had the kind of secrets that made someone a trusted player in Outfit circles. Simply put, he had blood on his hands.


His life in the Outfit came to an end one night in 1983. He was shot three times in the back of the head in his own car and miraculously survived due to faulty weaponry.

He was confronted in his hospital room by FBI Special Agent William Brown and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Margolis.

He knew what they wanted.

“I won’t [cooperate]. I’d rather they come and hit me again. You understand what I mean?”

“ . . . You owe them nothing now,” Brown countered.

“I realize that, but it is still against a principle of mine . . . ”

“Just give us the . . . name[s] . . . [of] the people you were with when you got shot . . . ”

“With immunity?” Eto asked.

“With immunity,” Margolis agreed. “ . . . [T]wo conditions: You tell the one-hundred-percent truth and you answer every question fully and completely.”

Soon, Edward Hegarty, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Chicago Office, was summoned to Eto’s room, where his frightened family was huddled. He’d already broken the news to them that he was going to cooperate.

“This is the only recourse that they have left me,” he said.

Eto was now a cooperating witness against the mob.

As his first matter of business as a cooperator, he made a detailed, tape-recorded statement about what happened to him that night. How he was set up and shot three times in the back of the head.

He would eventually confess to his part in four mob hits between 1958 and 1967. “I guess you could say I fingered them and set them up,” he later said.

All four slayings were connected to the Puerto Rican bolita racket he had been placed in charge of running for the Outfit in the late 1950s.

Victim No. 1 was killed in February 1958 during the mob’s initial drive to take over bolita.

Santiago Gonzalez ran bolita on Chicago’s Northwest Side. He didn’t want anything to do with the mob. He balked at the Outfit’s request to infiltrate his business. He told the Outfit to take a hike. He wasn’t going to cut them in on his action. He feared they would eventually take over all of his business.

Eto knew Gonzalez and tried to talk some sense into him at the man’s Northwest Side headquarters. Eto took along several other Outfit guys when he went to meet with Gonzalez.

When they arrived outside Gonzalez’s headquarters in a car, Puerto Rican gang members surrounded the car. One of them beat on the car with a metal pipe until Eto and the three men with him were forced to peel out down the street to safety.

For the Outfit, that was the last straw. A contract was issued on Gonzalez’s life. Vicious mob enforcer Angelo LaPietra, who was one of Eto’s earliest Outfit contacts, was tapped to take care of it.

Eto was ordered to set up Gonzalez, along with John Fecarotta, a LaPietra flunky known as “Big John.” (Fecarotta later admitted he had a 25-year business relationship with Eto between 1958 and 1983.)

Eto and Fecarotta lured the defiant bolita operator to a meeting in an industrial area. As soon as Gonzalez was within their grasp, Angelo LaPietra and his brother, James “Jimmy the Lapper” LaPietra, snatched him. He was brutally beaten, slashed, stabbed, and gutted so severely his intestines spilled out of his body.

The murder of Santiago Gonzalez would serve as an example to other bolita operators who didn’t want to play ball with the mob. His mutilated body was found in a parking lot on February 2, 1958.

Victim No. 2 was a man Eto only remembered later as “Padone.” He was a small-time North Side player. He made the mistake of trying to seduce the wife of Cruz Pinzon, one of Eto’s chief bolita operators. She turned down his advances, so he slapped her around.

Naturally, Pinzon was upset. He took his beef with Padone to Eto, who met with his benefactor: Ross Prio, the Outfit boss of Chicago’s North Side.

At the meeting, Eto told Prio what happened. Prio asked Eto for the address and telephone number of Padone. Eto provided it.

“I’ll get back to you,” Prio said.

But Prio never got back to Eto. He didn’t have to get back to him. Eto heard about Padone being shot to death. He knew exactly why he was killed.

Old-school gangster Ross Prio didn’t let anyone mess with business. No one interfered with the bottom line: the flow of money. Padone’s pathetic and unforgiving actions upset Pinzon — who was making a lot of money for Prio and the Outfit — so Padone had to go.

Victim No. 3 occurred in August 1962. Edward (Eddie) Robinson, an African-American bolita operator from the West Side, refused to go along with the program by either working with the mob or paying a street tax, so he was marked for death.

According to Eto, the killers of Eddie Robinson were Outfit members Vincent “Vinny the Saint” Inserro and Joseph “Joe Shine” Amabile. Eto was again tasked to set up the victim. He did just that.

On August 7, Robinson was shot to death and his body disposed of.

Days after he disappeared, Robinson’s family filed a missing-person report on him with the Chicago Police Department. An alert was issued for his car, which was found abandoned in North Lawndale. However, his body was never found.

Victim No. 4 was killed in November 1967.

Eugenio Lopez, alias James Crizell, was yet another bolita operator who got on the Outfit’s bad side. He rebelled against the Outfit’s control of bolita on the North Side.

His rebellion was short-lived.

Ross Prio wanted to nip this problem in the bud before it bloomed and other Puerto Rican bolita operators got the same idea as Lopez — that they could defy the mob and live.

Eto was ordered to lure Lopez to a building on the Near North Side.

Vinny Inserro was waiting for Eto and Lopez with two members of the Rush Street crew — the same crew Eto was a part of. The three men overpowered Lopez and strangled him to death.

Author’s Note: A search to identify the identity of “Padone” was exhausted.


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Monday, August 9, 2010

Death for ‘Little Lenny’

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


On February 10, 1985, Leonard M. Yaras, age 44, left his office inside A-1 Industrial Uniforms Co., located at 4224 West Division Street on Chicago’s Near Northwest Side. He walked over to his car, parked next to the curb out front. He was at ease as he slid into the front seat behind the steering wheel.

That’s when his world went topsy-turvy. A car pulled up next to his, two masked gunmen jumped out, and he was killed in a hail of bullets. Shot a total of eleven times, four of the slugs hit his face, head, and neck.

The killers jumped into a stolen car driven by a getaway driver and fled. The car was found torched in an alley a little less than two miles west of the murder scene.

Lenny Yaras was closely allied to Joseph “Caesar” DiVarco, boss of the Rush Street crew. However, the previous day, DiVarco was convicted in a federal gambling case. Law enforcement sources believed Yaras had taken over some of DiVarco’s duties in the gambling business in light of his mounting legal troubles.

Rumor was that the Outfit blamed Yaras for DiVarco’s conviction.


Yaras’ services in the mob went back at least 20 years.

He was a member of an Outfit crew based out of the Rogers Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Far North Side. The Rogers Park crew was led by notorious Jewish gangster Leonard (Lenny) Patrick, who was 71 years old at the time of his underling’s untimely demise. This close association inevitably led other mobsters to refer to Yaras as “Little Lenny,” in an effort to distinguish him from his same-name superior.

Lenny Patrick had known Lenny Yaras since the younger hood was a little kid. He met him through his father, David (Davey) Yaras.

Davey Yaras had been Patrick’s crime partner going back to the early 1940s. The pair committed a handful of mob hits together in the 1940s and ’50s before Yaras moved to Miami and became the Outfit’s point man there.

When the elder Yaras died in 1974, the FBI was notified by way of informants that his son inherited his business holdings, including his interests at A-1 Industrial Uniforms. Lenny Yaras had served as president of A-1 since the mid-1960s. Despite a change in ownership, he still allegedly held an interest in that business.

By the early 1980s, Yaras had risen up the ranks under Patrick’s tutelage. He functioned as Patrick’s number-two man. He ran a lucrative bookmaking network out of Rogers Park. People in the know began to recognize him as an Outfit player. He had finally stepped out of his father’s shadow.

In addition to his duties for Patrick, Yaras was in charge of collecting street taxes from Jewish bookmakers on Chicago’s North Side and in the northern suburbs. He was acting in this capacity on behalf of Vincent “Vince Innocence” Solano Sr., the Outfit’s North Side boss, and Caesar DiVarco, who ran the Rush Street crew for Solano.

Although Lenny Patrick and his crew worked closely with North Side boss Vince Solano, they officially answered to the Outfit’s chief political fixer, Gus “Slim” Alex, whose operations were based out of the downtown Loop.

Patrick had been put “with” Alex back in the mid-1950s by none other than Outfit powerhouse Momo Salvatore “Sam” Giancana, the Outfit’s top boss from 1957 to 1966. From that point on, Patrick reported to Alex for more than 30 years, until the end of their underworld careers.

The relationship between Lenny Patrick and Gus Alex ended in the early 1990s. Charged in a racketeering case with Alex, the once-loyal Patrick, who’d previously tape-recorded a conversation with Alex about extortion payments for government agents, signed on as a star cooperating witness and testified against Alex at his 1992 trial.

Now, back to Lenny Yaras’ murder.

The reason some felt he was hit over Caesar DiVarco’s downfall was due to the fact that DiVarco’s gambling case started after the Chicago Police Department’s Vice Control Division trailed him to a golf outing with two of DiVarco’s bookmaking chiefs: Marshall “Mendy” Portnoy and Warren Winkler.

Continued surveillance on Portnoy literally led right to DiVarco’s doorstep. Federal agents observed Portnoy arrive every week during football season at DiVarco’s home with gambling records under his arm to watch Monday Night Football on ABC. This led to raids, indictments, and convictions.

Later that year, David M. “Red” O’Malley, an ex-cop turn mobster charged with the murder of Yaras, was acquitted at a bench trial. Thomas Maloney, the jurist presiding over the murder case, issued his verdict on November 25, 1985. He found O’Malley’s identification by witnesses “unconvincing” and acquitted him.

(It’s worth nothing that Maloney, since deceased, was convicted of fixing three murder trials in 1993 and sent to federal prison. Most trial lawyers also recommend jury trials over bench trials since it is easier to convince one of twelve people of innocence or reasonable doubt rather than just one judge.)

At the time of his acquittal, Red O’Malley had just begun serving 10 years in federal prison. He’d been convicted months earlier on racketeering and extortion charges in a case involving members of the Cicero crew, namely Robert M. (Bobby) Salerno, John “Johnny the Bookie” Manzella, and Mario Garelli.

Despite the rumors, investigators denied that Yaras was hit for providing information leading to Caesar DiVarco’s downfall. They believed it was just a coincidence that he was killed a day after DiVarco was taken off the street for good.

Other rumors and theories persisted.

One had it that Grand Avenue crew boss Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo sent two of his enforcers to take over Yaras’ lucrative bookmaking operations. After he resisted the takeover, the contract was issued.

That scenario seems unlikely.

Joey Lombardo was then serving time in federal prison and facing another federal racketeering trial. It’s hard to fathom that he would have been trying to take over Yaras’ bookmaking operation while stewing in a cell in federal prison with more legal troubles.

More than that, however, is the fact that there was virtually no way Lombardo would have been allowed by the other Outfit bosses to order members of his West Side-based crew to take over gambling turf in Vince Solano’s territory on the North Side.

Law enforcement sources believed Lombardo was still calling some of the shots in his crew through an acting crew leader. Had he issued an order to invade another crew’s territory, he would have almost certainly been demoted and stripped of his crew.

That never happened.

Another had it that rising Outfit power Joseph “Joe Nick” Ferriola, the head of Outfit operations in Cicero who served as the Outfit’s top boss from 1986 to 1989, requested and ordered the murder.

The reason: Yaras was allegedly skimming from gambling collections.

In support of the Ferriola angle, note the following:

:: Yaras was associated in the bookmaking business with gambling bosses Donald J. “The Wizard of Odds” Angelini and Dominic “Large” Cortina, top members of Ferriola’s crew.

:: Yaras was reportedly bickering with another bookmaking operation headed by brothers Joseph and Larry Pettit, also part of Ferriola’s extended gambling network. Investigators learned Joseph Pettit actually took over Yaras’ bookmaking action upon his death.

:: Red O’Malley, one of Yaras’ alleged but acquitted killers, was hooked up with the Cicero crew.

Who for sure was responsible for rubbing out Yaras, and why?

The short answer: Only the Outfit knows.


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Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Three Doms

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


The “Three Doms” were Dominick “Nags” Brancato (left), Dominick A. “Bell” DiBella (middle), and Dominic “Little Libby” Nuccio (right).

Brancato and DiBella were born in Louisiana in 1906 and 1902. Nuccio was born in Chicago in 1895.

Getting their start in the Capone gang as enforcers during Prohibition, the Three Doms sent shivers up the spines of some of the toughest men in Chicago. (Early reports indicate DiBella and Brancato may have originally been affiliated with the Aiello crime family led by Mafia boss Joseph Aiello, who was machine-gunned — allegedly at the behest of Al Capone — in 1930.)

By the early 1930s, the Three Doms lived in cold-water flats in the old Sicilian section on Chicago’s Near North Side. Of the three, Nuccio was the most notorious — at that time, at least.

Nuccio jumpstarted his criminal career as a member of the Gloriana gang. Operating in the mid-to-late 1910s, they were a small group of organized thieves and killers, primarily Italian, a few Irish. Led by Charles Gloriana, they committed burglaries, payroll robberies, and bank holdups.

On October 15, 1919, Charles Gloriana was indicted with gang member Carl Moretti for the murder of a payroll guard during a robbery. The case was eventually stricken from the court docket the following year when witnesses couldn’t be produced to testify at trial.

A hotel manager’s wife was surprised awake by a burglar looking for money and valuables on June 15, 1918. She was beaten and choked when she failed to comply. The burglar eventually snatched a wedding ring off her hand and fled.


Gloriana, Nuccio, and seven other Gloriana gang members were indicted by a grand jury for the violent residential burglary. On November 2, 1919, all nine defendants were convicted in the case and sentenced to 1-to-20 years to be served in Joliet State Prison. They remained free on bail during their appeals process.

On April 28, 1920, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions and remanded the defendants for a new trial, which was later dismissed.

The unresolved case was over.

Nuccio bid farewell to the Gloriana gang in the 1920s and joined the ranks of the Capone gang as a “torpedo” or gunman.

One of the most celebrated gangland slayings during Chicago’s “Beer Wars” occurred on November 10, 1924. Charles Dean “Deanie” O’Banion, leader of the North Side gang, was shot to death in his florist shop, Schofield’s, located at 738 North State Street. Nuccio was arrested for investigation, questioned about the killing, and released without the filing of formal charges.

In 1929, Nuccio was arrested with future Outfit bigshot Ross Prio in connection with a still discovered by Revenue agents, but the charges were later dropped. A succession of arrests, at least 20, occurred between 1918 and 1950. The only convictions were on minor charges resulting in fines.

Following a power struggle within the Chicago mob from 1943 to 1946 that left at least a half-dozen men dead, Ross Prio took over mob operations on the North Side. The Three Doms worked directly under him. They controlled gambling, prostitution, and extortion operations along Rush Street and throughout the Near North Side. Thus, their troop became known as the Rush Street crew.

Considered “a specialist on shakedown tactics,” DiBella was in charge of extorting bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. In addition to the protection racket, he also headed the crew’s juice loans. Nuccio and Brancato concentrated primarily on gambling. Nuccio took care of handbook operations, supervising some 40 gambling parlors. Brancato ran or collected tribute from dice, card, and other casino-style games. Another responsibility of Brancato was to supervise their prostitution interests.

Regardless of whatever specific duties the Three Doms performed, they were equal partners. All three shared the responsibilities of running the Rush Street crew and cut up crew funds equally before sending a cut to Ross Prio.

When it came to sheer terror, the Three Doms were unbeatable. Few crossed them. Those who tried, died.

On June 16, 1948, Doward Falcon, age 24, attempted to rape Nuccio’s 35-year-old wife, Inez, as she walked her dog in Lincoln Park. The Nuccios lived nearby in a beautiful apartment building located at 1936 North Clark Street. Falcon lived near the Nuccios with his wife and two kids at 1837 Lincoln Avenue. He worked as the head busboy at the Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel — a restaurant patronized by celebrities, socialites, politicians, and gangsters.

Inez Nuccio filed a police complaint. The next day, Falcon was arrested for assault with intent to rape. He soon found out who he tried to rape. He knew he was in big trouble after Mrs. Nuccio told him that her husband would kill him.

Doward Falcon bonded out of jail on the attempted rape charges and hoped the inevitable wouldn’t happen. Less than a month later — on July 10 — it happened. He was gunned down by two killers at the doorstep of his Lincoln Avenue residence.

The Three Doms were quickly arrested. Per usual, the charges didn’t stick. Nuccio had a clear-cut alibi. He was out of town. He and his wife were in Lake Geneva on the day of the murder. The police knew this because they had to go to Wisconsin to get him. DiBella and Brancato were released when witnesses failed to identify them.

Considering how he probably had his wife’s attempted rapist killed, it’s ironic that Dom Nuccio was questioned about the murders of two women prior to the Falcon incident: Rush Street dice girl Estelle Carey, who was brutally tortured to death on February 2, 1943, and Catherine “Tina” Jacobs, another dice girl who disappeared on September 18, 1947, only to be found a week later in a ditch in southwest Michigan.

While the murder of Doward Falcon was personal, most murders were strictly business.

The Three Doms were suspects in the killing of ex-Chicago Police Lieutenant William J. (Bill) Drury on September 25, 1950. He was fired from the department when he refused to stop investigating an Outfit hit. Bitter about losing his job for doing his job, he began feeding information about the Outfit to reporters. He was scheduled to testify in front of the Kefauver Crime Committee when it came to Chicago. Now prepared to expose Outfit operations before an investigative body, the Outfit had to act fast if they wanted to shut him up.

Less than a week before his scheduled testimony, Bill Drury was shot to death with a .45-caliber automatic and a shotgun as he backed his car into the garage of his Chicago home. Before he was slain, he informed a lawyer working for the Kefauver Committee: “It’s awfully hot. I need protection.”

On October 2, 1950, Senator Estes Kefauver received an anonymous letter about the Drury murder. He read it three days later during the start of the hearings held in Chicago so that it would become part of official record files.

The letter read: “Jack (Jake) Guzik and Charles Fischetti ordered Lt. Bill Drury killed. Guzik sent word to his North Side triggermen Dominic Nuccio and two other Dominicks (called the Three Doms) and Nuccio supplied three shotguns and .45 caliber pistol for job. After killing, killers returned to Nuccio’s saloon and hid guns. Everyone knows the Doms’ last names. Now go and get them lined up for the electric chair. They have good, crooked lawyers known as BB Boys.”

The so-called “B&B Boys” were lawyers George Bieber and Michael (Mike) Brodkin, who ran the Bieber & Brodkin Law Firm. They would allegedly do anything to aid mob-connected clients.

The Three Doms began slowing down by the late 1950s and stepped to the side for new blood. Vincent “Jimmy the Monk” Allegretti took over the day-to-day operations of Rush Street crew business and Joseph “Caesar” DiVarco became his number-two man.

By the late 1960s, the Three Doms semi-retired from criminal activity.

DiBella’s semi-retirement wouldn’t last long due to Ross Prio’s death in late 1972. DiBella was brought back into the day-to-day action as Prio’s replacement at the suggestion of Outfit boss of bosses Tony Accardo. He remained as boss of the North Side until he died of cancer at the age of 74 in 1976.

Nuccio died at the age of 84 in 1979.

Brancato was the last of the Three Doms to die. He held on just one year shy of 100 years old, dying in 2005.

I will note here that just because a man is a murder suspect or even arrested and questioned for murder or any other crime does not mean he is guilty of that murder or crime.


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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Father of the Bride

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


Tony Accardo and his daughter
On April 27, 1961, the Outfit social event of the year began early that day at St. Luke’s, 528 Lathrop Avenue, River Forest.

Linda Lee Accardo, daughter of Outfit overlord Tony Accardo, traded “I do’s” with Michael A. Palermo, nephew of Nicholas Palermo, a suburban Melrose Park plumbing company owner and Outfit player who had known Accardo for 30 years.

After the young couple exchanged vows, some of the guests ventured off to re-group at Tony Accardo’s mansion, 915 North Franklin Avenue, River Forest, for a so-called “wedding breakfast.”

The real wedding festivities didn’t begin until later that evening at the reception, which was held at the syndicate-controlled Villa Venice Supper Club in suburban Northbrook.


The reception was packed with syndicate bosses, soldiers, gamblers, hijackers, hitmen, and mob terrorists, mingling with guests who were upstanding members of their community. The cross-section of the upperworld and underworld was not lost on news reporters and police and federal investigators who covered the extravagant affair.

Reporters and investigators snapped pictures of those in attendance who consisted of a Who’s Who of the Chicago mob, circa early 1960s.

They saw Anthony (Tony) Pinelli, former boss of Outfit rackets in Northwestern Indiana. He flew in from Los Angeles. Also flying in to attend was Nicholas (Nick) Civella of Kansas City, Missouri. He was the Chicago mob-affiliated boss of that city’s crime family.

Venturing down from Wisconsin was a noteworthy hood by the name of Vincenzo DiGiorgio, also known as James (Jim) DeGeorge. He once ran Chicago’s Near North Side rackets until he was exiled to Wisconsin for dereliction of duty back in the mid-1940s.

Other gangster guests included:

Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa
Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio
William “Smokes” Aloisio
Joseph “Big Joe” Arnold
Salvatore “Sam” Battaglia
James “Jimmy the Bomber” Catuara
John “Jackie the Lackey” Cerone
William “Willie Potatoes” Daddano
Rocco “Rocky” DeGrazia
Samuel “Mad Sam” DeStefano
Dominic “Bell” DiBella
John “Johnny Bananas” DiBiase
Joseph “Caesar” DiVarco
Ralph Emery (nee Ammeratto)
Charles (Chuck) English (nee Inglesia)
Samuel (Sam) English (nee Inglesia)
Momo Salvatore “Sam” Giancana
Joseph (Joey) Glimco
Albert “Obie” Frabotta
Murray “the Camel” Humphreys
Joseph “Ruffy” Lisciandrello
Charles (Chuckie) Nicoletti
Rocco “the Parrot” Potenza
Rosario “Ross” Prio (nee Priolo)
Tarquin “Queenie” Simonelli
Fred “Jukebox” Smith
James “Turk” Torello
David (Davey) Yaras

Collectively, these men had been arrested for everything from gambling, burglary, and armed robbery to rape, bombing, and murder. Only the Cook County Jail exceeded these nefarious characters as the largest collection of law-breakers in one place in the Chicago area.

The following day, an article in the Chicago Tribune, bylined Sandy Smith, the ace crime reporter, read: “The Chicago mob — 700 hoodlums, gamblers, and racketeers who brought along their wives and girlfriends — jammed a Cook County roadhouse [Villa Venice] last night at a riotous wedding reception thrown by Tony Accardo.”

To paraphrase what one investigator later wrote, if you were an Outfit guy and you didn’t get an invitation, you had a problem.


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