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$12.5 million bail offer refused

April 30, 2005


The reputed leader of the Chicago mob, James Marcello, offered to put up $12.5 million to get out of jail Friday.

But it wasn't enough.

A federal judge rejected Marcello's bid for freedom, saying he's lived a life of crime and is in a business, organized crime, that targets potential witnesses.

Marcello, 61, of Lombard, would have posted the bond money in the form of the homes of his family and friends -- including two homes in Oak Brook worth $10.1 million total.

Prosecutors Mitch Mars and John Scully portrayed Marcello as a brutal and lethal mobster at the detention hearing for Marcello and his younger brother, Michael, who allegedly runs a video poker gambling business. Michael Marcello, 54, of Schaumburg, was also denied bond.

Both men are charged as part of what's been called the most significant indictment ever against the Chicago Outfit, laying 18 murders at its door.

James Marcello allegedly drove Anthony Spilotro, the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael Spilotro to a Bensenville home in 1986. Anthony Spilotro was told he was being promoted to a capo, Michael Spilotro that he was becoming a made man. But it was a setup, and both brothers were jumped in the basement and beaten to death, prosecutors said.

Didn't come clean at first

James Marcello was also behind the wheel of a car where mob hoodlum Nicholas D'Andrea was beaten to death in 1981 as mobsters tortured him for information on a botched hit, prosecutors said.

Telling all on James Marcello is Nick Calabrese, a fellow mobster who was inducted in the mob in 1983 at the same ceremony as James Marcello, and Calabrese's brother, notorious loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr.

Nick Calabrese began cooperating in January 2002 after investigators tied him to the 1986 hit of John Fecarotta through DNA evidence of blood Calabrese left at the scene, according to court testimony and sources. Nick Calabrese has been involved in 15 mob hits, according to court testimony.

Calabrese was told he was facing the death penalty and decided to flip. Calabrese also was motivated to cooperate after he became aware that his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., had offered no objection to his murder when Frank Calabrese Sr. learned of the possibility of Nick Calabrese cooperating.

At first, Nick Calabrese didn't come clean with investigators on James Marcello's role in the murder of the Spilotro brothers, according to court testimony on Friday.

When Nick Calabrese was in prison, his brother Frank wasn't sending his family any money. So James Marcello, also in prison with Nick Calabrese, agreed to send his family $4,000 a month.

James Marcello once even allegedly bragged to his brother about the payments, saying it was "the best investment . . . believe me," according to a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation.

Buried in a cornfield

James Marcello insisted to his brother he said nothing incriminating to Nick Calabrese in prison, saying "I talked nice to him. He talked nice to me. And that was it."

Nick Calabrese initially didn't implicate James Marcello because "Jimmy was the only person who ever helped him, and he was trying to help Jimmy," said Michael W. Maseth, the lead FBI agent of Operation Family Secrets, which also involved IRS agents.

But investigators say Nick Calabrese eventually told them that James Marcello drove him to the Bensenville home where Calabrese participated in the slayings of the Spilotro brothers, allegedly with reputed mobsters John Fecarotta, James LaPietra and Louie "The Mooch" Eboli.

The Spilotro brothers were buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Marcello's attorney, Marc W. Martin, attacked the credibility of Nick Calabrese, noting that he was a felon once facing the death penalty. And he underscored that there was no physical evidence linking Marcello to any of the murders.

But U.S District Judge James Zagel noted that in other cases, unsavory Outfit members testified and put people away, including notorious mobster Lenny Patrick.

"If Lenny Patrick could send a large number of people to prison and did, Calabrese can as well," Zagel said.

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