The new 'Outfit'
August 18, 2002
BY STEVE WARMBIR FEDERAL COURTS REPORTER
In a secretly recorded conversation between two Chicago mobsters, the late "Singing Joe" Vento croons a love song of sorts about a top Outfit leader.
"You know the guy we met?" Vento asks mob enforcer Mario Rainone.
"Yeah," Rainone says.
"You think he's a nobody?" Vento asks.
"No, I know he's somebody," Rainone says.
"You better believe he's f------ somebody," Vento says.
That somebody is James Marcello.
At the moment, "Little Jimmy," as Marcello is known, is sitting in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., serving out his 12-1/2-year sentence for racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling. But when he gets out next year, mob watchers say, he's expected to take on a big new job--head of the Chicago Outfit.
But if Marcello is a somebody, he's still not a really big somebody--and he never will be--at least not when compared with the infamous men who ran the mob before him, powerful hoods like Al Capone, Anthony Accardo, Sam Giancana and Joseph Aiuppa.
Marcello is doomed to be a lesser mob boss because the Chicago mob itself today is less of a power, squeaking along with much less money, far fewer members and a fraction of its old political influence.
In Capone's day, his boys raked in more than $100 million a year--more than $1 billion in today's dollars. Today, the Chicago Outfit pulls in just $100 million, according to law enforcement estimates.
In the 1980s, the Chicago mob had roughly 200 "made" members, each of whom ran his own various illegal businesses. Today, according to the FBI, the mob is down to about 50 made members--not enough hoods to fill up a small prison cellblock.
And in the mob's heyday, the tentacles of organized crime in Chicago, like organized crime families across the nation, reached deep into labor unions, city and suburban police departments, city halls and the Statehouse.
The mob at its most powerful was impressively diversified, drawing hundreds of millions of dollars from loan-sharking, pornography, bookmaking, prostitution, extorting legitimate businesses, looting union pension and insurance funds, ghost payroll jobs in government, burglary, profit skimming at casinos, robbing jewelry salesmen, bankrolling drug dealers and whatever else somebody could dream up to grab a buck.
In the last 20 years, federal prosecutors in Chicago, armed with evidence produced by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, have put mob leader after mob leader behind bars--more than 150 made members, associates and workers.
Mob boss Sam "Wings" Carlisi, for whom Marcello worked as a chauffeur, died in prison in 1997. Mob boss Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa went to prison in 1986 and died in 1997, a year after his release. Top mob counselor Angelo "the Hook" LaPietra went to prison in 1986 and died in 1999, shortly after his release. Top mob lieutenant Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo went to prison in 1982 and was released in 1992.
What's left of the mob's leadership is getting old.
Some mob experts believe Lombardo runs the mob now. He's 73. Other mob watchers say John ''No Nose'' DiFronzo runs the show. He's also 73. Still others say it's Joe ''the Builder'' Andriacchi. He's 69.
This, of course, assumes that anybody is really in charge.
Adding to the Outfit's problems, many top mobsters moved from the city to the suburbs years ago, abandoning those tough old Chicago neighborhoods that were always the mob's best recruiting grounds. New talent can be hard to find.
Where the money is now
The Chicago Outfit today makes most of its money from illegal gambling.
Those video poker machines in the back of local bars and social clubs feed millions a year to the mob. Illegal sports gambling, whether through a neighborhood bookie or an offshore betting operation somewhere in Central America, feeds millions of dollars more to the mob.
The mob also continues, though at a slower pace, to finance drug deals, engage in loan-sharking--lending money at exorbitant rates to those people no bank will touch--and to wield influence in organized labor, despite a strong federal effort to purge the mob from such unions as the Laborers and the Teamsters.
Indeed, the mob's continued influence within unions remains so strong that it--along with the mob's influence in politics--will be the subject of a future installment of the Chicago Sun-Times' "Crime, Inc." series.
As the sons of old-time mobsters pick up law degrees and MBAs, the new Chicago mob also has developed a fondness for setting up quasi-legit companies, such as insurance firms, designed to rip off clients at the first opportunity.
One example the feds point to is Specialty Risk Consultants, a reputed Outfit insurance company that is accused of siphoning more than $12 million out of the town of Cicero.
That scheme, though, didn't fare well on two fronts. Eight reputed players in the scam, including Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, are on trial in federal court, and the jury in the case is expected to start its seventh day of deliberations Monday.
While the scam showed some sophistication, the profits from it weren't invested well.
Key members of the scheme are accused of plowing millions of dollars into an isolated Wisconsin golf course that they had hoped to turn into a casino.
The feds dubbed it the mob's "Fantasy Island," and that's all it ever was.
No casino ever opened, and a white elephant remains.
Lean but still mean
Though the Chicago mob's top leadership has been decimated, young Turks have begun to turn more to violence, threatened and real, according to FBI experts and other law enforcement sources. Most obviously, two men have been shot dead in mob hits in recent years, but there's also the cheap day-to-day viciousness.
Consider, for example, the business tactics of the Giuliano brothers, Thomas and Christopher, who were convicted in 1999 of using muscle--beating a man up--to force the man to pay gambling debts.
The victim owed Thomas Giuliano $75,000 and was told that amount would skyrocket to $200,000 in about 30 days if he didn't pay up.
Thomas Giuliano, 33, allegedly warned the victim that he should show up to one meeting or "I'm gonna come through the window and grab you."
When the brothers finally did track down their man, at his place of work, Christopher Giuliano, 29, grabbed the man's neck with both hands and began pushing his head into the wall.
Fortunately, FBI agents, who had the business under surveillance, rushed in and saved him.
Or consider the case of alleged mob soldier Anthony Giannone, from suburban Bartlett, who made this colorful threat to a man who owed him $55,000: "When I find you, every day it rains, I'm gonna make you remember me."
The implied threat, authorities explained, was that Giannone would break the man's bones. And even after the victim healed, his mauled body would ache when it rained.
Who's the boss?
Is it Joey the Clown?
Or No Nose?
Or the Builder?
The fact that mob watchers are not even sure who's running the Chicago Outfit these days--Lombardo, DiFronzo or Andriacchi--is seen by some as a sign of great sophistication.
"That very fact that you need to ask that question shows how effective the Outfit is," argues St. Xavier University Professor Howard Abadinsky, who has written on Chicago organized crime.
Or it could mean there is no clear leader willing to step up and take the heat from the feds, other observers argue.
The Chicago mob, Abadinsky points out, wisely keeps a low profile, especially compared with the New York mob, which has a way of gathering headlines through gunplay.
Or as then mob boss Tony Accardo once told FBI agents in the early 1970s, "We're gentlemen in Chicago. They're savages in New York."
But there have been those two mob hits in the last three years. In 1999, mobster Ronald Jarrett was shot dead outside his Bridgeport home. Two years later, Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti was shot outside a Brown's Chicken & Pasta in south suburban Lyons.
And so, some observers wonder if the violence will escalate over turf disputes.
Abadinsky, for one, doubts it.
"They've been successful, they've been controlled, they are much more hierarchical," he said. "They've been able to control the kind of violence that would generate attention."
Meet Little Jimmy
To rise to the top of any organization, you have to build an impeccable resume and pay your dues. And it helps to have family in right places.
By these standards, law enforcement sources say, James Marcello is perfectly positioned to take command of the Chicago Outfit. Especially given his relative youth--he's 58.
He worked for Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation as a laborer from 1960 to 1973, but it has been his other jobs, like working as the No. 2 man for "Wings" Carlisi, that spoke to his true talents.
Marcello, who lived in the Lombard area, has shown he's crafty and paranoid about surveillance.
And stone-cold ruthless.
At his trial, prosecutors said Marcello took part in planning the hit of a mob associate, Anthony "Jeeps" Daddino, which never took place, and was a prime mover behind the unsuccessful torching of the Lake Theatre in Oak Park.
But Marcello is best known in mob circles for his alleged part in the slayings of the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and Spilotro's brother Michael.
In 1986, the Spilotros were stripped to their underwear, beaten senseless and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. No one has ever been charged in the case, but investigators have long believed Marcello helped set up the brothers for the hit.
Marcello's brother-in-law is former Chicago police officer William Galioto, whom the Chicago Crime Commission named a mob lieutenant in its 1997 organization chart.
Galioto was an investor in a new movie studio being planned on the West Side in 1995. The project attracted front-page headlines--and fell apart--when Mayor Daley killed a $5.5 million low-interest loan for the studio after learning about the mob ties.
And Marcello's nephew is John Galioto, business manager of Laborers' Local 225 in Des Plaines until it was forced into trusteeship in the late 1990s because of alleged ties to organized crime and extravagant spending.
Both Galiotos have denied any connection to organized crime.
Even without such impressive connections, Marcello's name is enough to invoke dread.
Take, for instance, this secretly recorded conversation between Richard Spizziri, who worked for Marcello, and a man behind on juice loan payments.
"I don't want to give this to Little Jimmy," Spizziri says. "If I give this to Jimmy, he's gonna send somebody. He's gonna send f------ . . . f------ nine guys out, and they will find you."
During another chat, Spizziri describes the talents of the dedicated professionals to be dispatched.
"I don't want youse to get hurt," he tells the debtor. "I really don't want you to get hurt, 'cause they don't send f------ people like Sean," Spizziri says, referring to a big guy who works for him.
"Sean's a f------ goof. . . . Sean does what you tell him to do, a couple of slaps and it's over.
"These people, when they send these people, they like what they're doin'. This is their job.
"They love it."
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