Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Secrets: Prosecution's closing arguments

Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk assailed defendant Frank Calabrese Sr.'s character during closing arguments in Chicago's Family Secrets trial yesterday, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun Times.

Funk played the jury clip after clip of Calabrese's secretly recorded conversations. "You can hear that man laughing, laughing about the murders," the prosecutor said at one point.

Calabrese (right) is charged with involvement in 13 mob murders. The prosecutor also outlined the evidence against the other defendants in the trial, Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Paul Schiro and former police officer Anthony Doyle.

Funk noted that, in order to believe the stories presented by defendants who took the stand, the jury would have to accept that several of them were unlucky enough to be caught by federal eavesdropping devices as they play-acted, according to a story by Rob Olmstead of the Chicago Daily Herald.

When Lombardo took the stand, he testified that he merely acted the part of a mob boss from time to time. He insisted he had no connection to the underworld.

The prosecutor urged jurors to stand up for the rule of law: "Who gives them the right to take the lives of other human beings? How is it that they can just walk into a business and demand money?"

Funk was scheduled to complete his closing remarks today. Closing arguments are expected to continue through Thursday.

No prison for Tocchet

Rick Tocchet, former Philadelphia Flyers hockey player, was sentenced to two years probation for involvement in a sports betting ring, according to an AP story published in the New York Daily News. Tocchet faced a maximum possible term of five years in prison.

Tocchet reached a plea deal with prosecutors. He was charged with participating in a gambling ring with New Jersey State Trooper James Harney and with James Ulmer of Swedesboro, NJ. The ring dealt with bets totaling millions of dollars. Harney, no longer with the police force, was recently sentenced to five years in prison. Ullmer was sentenced last week to two years probation, according to Sports Illustrated.

Letter asks for Basciano retrial

A letter-writer claiming to be one of the jurors in the recent trial of Vincent Basciano has asked for a new trial for the former Bonanno Crime Family boss, according to a story published in the New York Daily News.

The unidentified writer spoke of intense pangs of guilt after Basciano was convicted of racketeering murder after a 10-hour jury deliberation last month. "I needed to get this off my chest and to also let Vinny know that he had one juror that felt he was innocent of the murder charge," the letter said.

Defense attorney James Kousouros asked U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis for a conference on the letter, indicating he was "disturbed at the tone and substance..."

The jurors in the case remained anonymous throughout the trial.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Secrets: Lombardo says he was just pretending

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo told the Family Secrets Trial jury that he has never been a member of an organized crime society and only occasionally acted the part of a mob enforcer in order to assist friends in debt collection, according to stories by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times and Jeff Coen of the Chicago Tribune.

"...Like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson," 78-year-old Lombardo (right) testified in a Chicago courtroom yesterday.

Lombardo, on trial with other men accused of running the Chicago Outfit criminal organization, was ready with answers to all of his apparent underworld links as he took the stand in his own defense.

Asked about a photo that shows him at a restaurant table with underworld characters including former Outfit boss Tony Accardo and Joey Aiuppa, Lombardo responded that he had just gone in to the restaurant "to get a sandwich" when an old friend called him over to say hello.

Asked about the killing of Daniel Seifert, who was prepared to testify against Lombardo in a union corruption case, Lombardo responded that he had "no idea Mr. Seifert was gonna testify against us."

Asked about his use of the word "we" when he and alleged racketeer Louis "The Mooch" Eboli discussed retribution against a business that didn't pay the mob "street tax," Lombardo said he merely misspoke.

Scarpa Jr. links DeVecchio to 1984 murder

Gregory Scarpa Jr., now imprisoned after a career as a mob gunman, told investigators that information from then-FBI Agent Lindley DeVecchio prompted the September 1984 murder of Mary Bari, 31, according to a story by Nancie L. Katz of the New York Daily News.

DeVecchio (left) reportedly told Scarpa's father that Bari was turning informant, a particularly worrisome accusation as Bari's boyfriend at the time was Colombo Crime Family boss Alphonse Persico. Investigators believe Scarpa and his father then shot the woman to death at a Brooklyn social club.

The Bari murder is one of four that prosecutors have linked to DeVecchio's alleged cooperation with members of the Colombo Family. DeVecchio is asking now for the case against him to be thrown out because prosecutors have made use of earlier testimony he provided while under immunity.

Six dead: Italian mob feud spills over into Germany

A gangland execution took the lives of six Italian men early Wednesday in Duisburg, Germany, according to a Reuters news report. All the victims were shot in the head near a pizza restaurant called Da Bruno. The victims were all connected in some way to the restaurant, in which a birthday celebration for one of the victims had taken place the previous night. Giuliano Amato, foreign minister of Italy, indicated that the deaths might be related to a feud the southern Italy criminal society known as 'Ndrangheta.

Duisburg is home to a large Italian immigrant population, according to a story by Mark Landler and Ian Fisher of the New York Times. 'Ndrangheta apparently moved in with those residents.

German police said the six victims were all from San Luca, a town in eastern Calabria. Two of the victims were brothers. Authorities believe the six were the latest casulaties in a a 16-year-old feud between the Strangio-Nirta and Pelle-Romeo families within the 'Ndrangheta society.

Montreal Mafioso's bail hearing begins

The bail hearing for alleged Montreal Mafia bigshot Nick Rizzuto began this week, according to a report by the Canadian Press. The hearing is expected to last two weeks and to include witnesses and wiretap evidence. A court order has banned publication of the hearing details.

Rizzuto, 83, was arrested nine months ago in a large police roundup of suspected organized criminals. He is charged with gangsterism, conspiracy and drug-related offenses.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Krivoi guilty in snitch murder

Marat Krivoi, 37, a Brooklyn mobster connected to the Russian Mafiya, was convicted Friday of two underworld murders, according to stories by Jennifer Fermino of the New York Post and Nancie L. Katz of the New York Daily News.

Krivoi (left) is the former son-in-law of Boris Nayfield, a chief of the Russian mob.

Krivoi was charged in Kings County NY of participation in two killings committed a month apart in 1992: Boris Roitman, 21, who Krivoi feared was a police informant, was killed by shotgun wounds to his chest and neck in Brooklyn on Aug. 26, 1992; Thien Diep, 24, a high-stakes pool player, was shot in the head during the course of a robbery on or about Sept. 23, 1992.

Prosecutors argued that Krivoi ordered underling Pyotr Sarkisov to kill Roitman and that Krivoi personally shot Diep. In a separate trial, Krivoi accomplice Vitaly Ivanitsky was found guilty of the same crimes a day earlier.

Italy intercepts black market arms deal with Iraq

Italian police recently stumbled onto information related to the planned black market sale of more than 100,000 Russian-made automatic weapons to the Iraqi government, according to a story published by CBS News.

The deal was uncovered by Operation Parabellum, originally an anti-Mafia probe. Early last year, police searching airline baggage for smuggled drugs found helmets, bulletproof vests and a catalog of weapons. Police were eventually led to the details of a $40 million deal.

The Iraqi participants in the deal claimed in e-mails with Italian brokers that the purchase had the approval of the U.S. government. A U.S. spokesman in Baghdad denied that.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Secrets: Lombardo will testify in his defense

"Joey the Clown" Lombardo, one of the defendants in Chicago's Family Secrets trial, intends to testify in his own defense, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Lombardo's attorney Rick Halprin made that announcement in court on Wednesday. Lombardo (right), 78, is expected to testify about his alibi on the day that Daniel Seifert was killed. He insists he was reporting a stolen wallet to the police at the time Seifert was murdered by a shotgun blast in 1974.
Other defense attorneys are expected to reveal Monday whether their clients will also step up to the witness stand.

NY link found in Sicily Mafia arrests

The arrest of 14 suspected organized criminals in Sicily has revealed a link between Mafia groups on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, according to a story published in the Australian Daily Telegraph.

The 14 suspects face extortion and money laundering charges as well as charges related to assisting fugitive crime boss Salvatore Lo Piccolo.

Wiretaps revealed that the suspects were in contact with organized crime bosses in New York. The news report specifically mentions New York's Gambino Crime Family. Sicilian mobsters are reportedly funneling proceeds from illegal operations into real estate speculation in Brooklyn.

Biography traces mob's birth to New Orleans

A recently released biography points to 19th Century New Orleans as the birthplace of the American Mafia, according to a book review by Scott Deitche published by Blogcritics magazine.

Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia "is a worthy addition to the organized crime canon and the greater body of books on Civil War-era America," Deitche wrote. Deitche praised the book's attention to detail: "You can practically smell the fetid air of the New Orleans waterfront."

Deep Water states that Macheca, a Confederate Army veteran and a pioneer of Gulf commerce, organized and financed a series of New Orleans gangs, including one that became the first lasting Mafia foothold in the United States. The authors suggest that Macheca did so in service of a corrupt Democratic machine. They argue that the 1890 assassination of New Orleans Police Chief David Hennessy and the 1891 Crescent City Lynchings of 11 Italian Americans unconvicted of any crime were also products of the same political corruption.

The largest lynching in American history was "more a calculated hit than a random act of mob violence," Deitche wrote.
See also:

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Secrets: Mistress testifies against Marcello

Connie Marcello, longtime mistress of Chicago Outfit boss James Marcello, continued to accept thousands of dollars each month from her beau though she secretly testified against him before a grand jury in March 2005, according to a story by Steve Warmbir of the Chicago Sun Times.

Connie Marcello, who legally changed her name to Marcello though she and James Marcello never married, testified in the Family Secrets trial last week. She noted that the mob boss paid for her suburban home, took care of her $15,000 gambling debt and provided her with up to $5,000 per month.

Also last week:
  • Michelle Spilotro, daughter of Michael Spilotro (right) who was executed by the Outfit in 1986, said James Marcello called for her father on the day he disappeared. She said she recognized Marcello's voice.

  • Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist, described the autopsies of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, according to a story by Kelli Conkey of Medill Reports. He noted that the decomposing bodies had been dug up in an Indiana cornfield after being dead at least a week. Dr. Pless said there was no evidence that the men had been buried alive but he could not rule it out. He said they were likely beaten to death. Michael suffered a broken nose, head and neck injuries. Asphyxia - lack of oxygen - was attributed to his right lung being almost entirely filled with blood. Anthony died of head, neck and chest injuries, in addition to asphyxia.

  • Ann Spilotro, wife of Michael, testified that her husband understood that he was in trouble with the mob in the weeks leading up to his June 1986 murder, according to an AP story published by ABC7 in Chicago. Michael and his brother Anthony were lured to a Bensenville basement, were killed there and were buried in Indiana.

Italian police arrest Mafia bigshot

Franco Franzese, 43, believed to be a key aide to Sicilian Mafia bosses, has been arrested by Italian police in Palermo, according to a Reuters news story.

Franzese has been listed by the Italian Interior Ministry as one of Italy's most dangerous criminals. He is believed to have served as an aide to Salvatore Lo Piccolo, reputedly one of the Mafia's most powerful current bosses.

Joey Leo charged with extortion

Daniel Leo
FBI electronic surveillance resulted in Joey Leo, nephew of reputed Genovese Crime Family boss Daniel "The Lion" Leo, being charged with extortion July 24, according to a story by Kati Cornell of the New York Post.

Agents placed a listening device in Joey Leo's car and tapped his cellphone after failing in wiretapping attempts directed against Daniel Leo (right). As a result, they obtained portions of conversations related to mob business between Daniel Leo and his nephew. Some of the conversations related to extortion of a taxi business between 2002 and 2006. Joey Leo is held without bail.

Authorities believe Daniel Leo quietly succeeded Vincent "The Chin" Gigante as Genovese boss. He was charged May 30 with four counts of extortion. He pleaded not guilty but was held without bail. Leo was first mentioned as Genovese boss in December of 2006. Authorities cautioned at the time that the Genovese clan was notorious for screening its actual bosses through the use of front men.

About Me

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at tphunt@gmail.com.)
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website Mafiahistory.us; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; author of Wrongly Executed?; coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime; contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime; writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.