October 1, 2014

The New Mob Boss

Johnny "Apes" Monteleone

He wears casual attire. His hairline has receded with the passing of the years and he could probably stand to lose a few pounds. By all outward appearances he would easily be mistaken for an unassuming elderly grandfather. However Johnny Monteleone (A.K.A. “Johnny Apes”) has been pegged on the highest rungs of the Chicago Outfit - swimming up-stream in the void created by death and imprisonment of the elders. Within the last year, Monteleone appears to have been placed in charge of syndicate operations south of Congress Street, overseeing the 26th Street Crew and the always popular Chicago Heights environs.

Monteleone is a seasoned wise-guy who moves within his circles with understandable trepidation’s. So many of his mentors and associates, from the late Jackie Cerone and the late Joey Aiuppa on down, are spending their twilight years in the comfort of a federal penitentiary. Obviously the man they call “Apes” does not want to experience a similar fate if he can help it. Unfortunately his high-profile position is exposing him to greater scrutiny.

John Monteleone oversees a vast geographical parcel of Outfit turf - stretching from Chinatown and its lucrative base of gambling operations, through an array of railroad yards and trucking terminals to the immediate West where cargo theft has been rampant over the years, on down to Chicago Heights located on the southern edge of the metropolitan area where automobile and syndicate chop shops proliferate. For years the South Suburbs have been the home base for some of the best Outfit auto thieves. The chop shop rackets have flourished with minimal interference, even after syndicate overseer and terrorist Albert “Caesar” Tocco went off to prison.

Chicago’s street crews specialize in specific areas of criminal endeavor they like to grab hold of all pieces of the action. Because of the proximity of railyards and freight depots on the South Side, cartage thievery is the oldest criminal venue for the 26th Street Crew. The good life of the Gold Coast and its nightclubs lends itself so naturally to prostitution and vice which has become the sole province of the Rush Street crew which appears to be under the control of North Side boss Joe “the Builder” Andriacci. The stock and trade of the Grand Avenue crew which until recently was ruled by Marco D’Amico, who is about to go off to prison, is burglary. Chicago Police Department statistics show that a full 65% of the crew have at least one burglary arrest at some point in their careers. Suburban police statistics on organized crime guys are rare to non-existent.

Johnny Monteleone has inherited an operation that is in chaos and disarray following the serious damage inflicted by the government through their high-profile prosecutions of the 1980s and 1990s. The information supplied by mob turncoats Ken Eto and William “B.J.” Jahoda about syndicate gambling turned up the heat on the current Outfit bosses. Many convictions can be attributed to these two guys. But as history has shown, the situation can be easily reversed with a strong leader calling the shots once again. The void has always been filled.

Not much notoriety has been bestowed on Monteleone outside of his own. He is somewhat of a mystery man who has played it close to the vest over the years. His criminal I.R. record shows several arrests in the 1960s for possession of burglary tools and theft. In 1986, Monteleone was sentenced in Milwaukee to four-years in prison for criminal contempt after refusing to testify before a grand jury concerning a car bombing in the Wisconsin city.

Ken Eto, the Asian-American bookmaker whose thick skull deflected several outfit bullets that were meant to do him in one night near the Montclair Theater, filled in a lot of blanks for the “G” after Monteleone refused to cooperate. Eto told of gambling payoffs made to detectives assigned to the vice to circumvent raids on a monte game at Clark Street and Irving Park Road. It was revealed by Eto, who decided that the life of a protected informant was preferable to his chances out on the street, the existence of a secret code was used by the bribed vice-detectives to alert the outfit about pending gambling raids. “I’m just the furnace man. I’ll be there in a couple of hours or a couple of days,” was the message sent to Eto when something big was scheduled to go down.

In return for this kind of advance information, Eto paid the vice-detectives $1,000 per month. A cut of the proceeds also went to Ernest “Rocco” Infelise, a close associate of Monteleone. Eto testified that Johnny Monteleone and enforcer John Fecarotta, a business agent for Local 8 of the Laborer’s AFL-CIO Industrial Worker’s Union, supplied the muscle that kept the deadbeats in line. A customer who routinely disrupted the monte game was taken by car to a secret location where he was punished. While enroute to the destination, the heel of Monteleone’s shoe on the gambler’s back kept him in place. Wielding a two-by-four, Fecarotta beat the man senseless. After all it was important to keep up appearances and enforce discipline.

Fecarotta’s extended Chicago Police Department record lists 17 arrests and two felony convictions dating back to 1942 when he was only 14-years-old. One of the felony convictions were for armed robbery, the other for burglary.

Monteleone rose through the ranks of Angelo LaPietra’s fast-moving street crew which took over Southwest Side operations shortly after Jimmy “the Bomber” Catuara was “retired,” or more appropriately blown away. Catuara, an aging boss from the South Side, was found lying face down in a pool of blood near his red Cadillac at Hubbard and Ogden Avenue in Chicago one night, capping a string of syndicate rubouts linked to Albert Tocco and William Dauber’s attempt to take over the South Side “chop shop” rackets.

LaPietra was a protégé of the late Fiore “FiFi” Buccieri, the powerful West Side extortionist whose juice operations and narcotics racket LaPietra would one day take over. Johnny Monteleone was one of five muscle guys who worked for Buccieri - Vito Spillone, John Fecarotta, and James and Angelo LaPietra were the others. When Angelo was sent away for the role he played in bilking the Teamster’s Central States Pension Fund, he appointed his brother James as the acting boss of the crew. But after Jimmy died of cancer in September 1993, Michael Talereco, the 31-year-old nephew of the LaPietra brothers reportedly involved in gambling, burglary, and juice loan activities, became the acting boss. These arrangements, as we have seen, quickly change. By all accounts, Johnny “Apes” is the main man these days.

LaPietra’s home base was Cicero. Gambling operations, juice collections, and Outfit business was routinely transacted at the clubhouse, 5102 West 14th Street. The sign outside the door read “Kleen-Aire Exterminators & Sanitation.” But the only discussions of extermination going on inside this mob front was of the more sinister variety. A roll-call of Chicago hoods passed through the doors of the establishment including Solly DeLaurentis, Joey Aiuppa before he “went away,” and Louis Pannos. John Monteleone was observed coming and going from this address on a daily basis through F.B.I. surveillance. In fact, he was listed as one of the owners. A steady stream of customers, 200 a day according to one account, filtered into the adjacent grocery store. Very few carried out any groceries.

Of course, the Town of Cicero welcomes the mob’s shining lights with open arms, freedom from police harassment, and fraternal affection. Some years back the Cicero Economic Development Commission (with the late Henry J. Klosak’s blessing), signed off on a $1 million dollar loan to Paul Spano to help him build a storage and restaurant complex a half-mile south of the Town Hall. Spano was subsequently identified as a member of Rocco Infelise’ crew with deep and pervasive ties to the Outfit bad guys. Spano owned Flash Interstate Delivery Systems, a trucking firm where sports wagering and horse betting was conducted on a daily basis inside company offices. Interstate was organized in 1978 to haul produce from Chicago warehouses to distribution points in the Northeast states. Prodded for an explanation, the Cicero Economic Development Commission said it was “unaware” of Spano’s mob affiliations.

In the course of their investigation into illegal sports gambling, Federal agents observed Infelise, Monteleone, the late Joe “Nagall” Ferriola, and other top bosses meeting on a daily basis at the Flash company offices. Spano’s ties to Ferriola surfaced in 1986 when the Sheriff of Green Lake County, Wisconsin reported to Chicago authorities that an application for a building permit had been filed for a spacious four-bedroom tri-level vacation house in Ripon, on the south shore of Green Lake. Shortly after the house was completed, Spano sold a half-interest in the place to Ferriola’s wife Julia, for $50,000.

Less than two-years after receiving his $1 million dollar loan - the largest amount of money ever granted by Cicero’s Economic Commission - Flash Interstate filed for bankruptcy protection. As far as is known, the taxpayer money loaned to Spano by Cicero’s kow-towing pols has never been repaid. Spano, meanwhile, was one of 20 people indicted on charges ranging from murder conspiracy to racketeering, gambling, and tax fraud. He was sentenced to a year of confinement - in the custody of both the Federal government and himself. The unusual conditions were granted by U.S. District Judge Ann Williams who allowed the Cicero man to care for his 90-year-old widowed mother.

According to local mob watchers, Monteleone has maintained a fairly low profile thus far. He is one of several fast-rising bosses comprising the “next generation” of syndicate leadership which also includes Joe “the Builder” Andriacci, a cousin of Joey Lombardo who is believed to be overseeing operations north of Madison street when he is not attending to his construction business. Charles Frankian, who has been spotted in the company of numerous upper echelon outfit leaders at the customary suburban mob hangouts in recent years, runs gambling on the Northwest end of Cook County. The dapper-dressing, well-spoken Frankian rose to prominence running syndicate-controlled wirerooms under the late Joe Ferriola who assigned him his own crew of bookmakers. Frankian, Andriacci, and Monteleone are the guys to watch according to those in the know.

The Chicago outfit seems destined to always exist. The question to be pondered is how effective these new bosses will be under the present arrangements. Total membership in the six street crews comprising the outfit - Taylor Street, Grand Avenue, 26th Street, Rush Street, Chicago Heights, and the North Side - has dwindled to 191 - a significant drop-off from only two decades ago. The prosecutorial zeal of the Feds - the most ambitious penetration of organized crime launched by the government since the late Robert Kennedy first targeted the labor racketeers back in the late 1950s - has been ruthless, uncompromising, and effective - thus far.