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Copyright © 2005 The Quad-City Times |

Arrests burn Chicago mob


CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have been waging war on organized crime in this city since before Al Capone, but experts say a fresh murder conspiracy indictment charging members of the mob’s high command with plotting to rub out witnesses could strike the heaviest blow yet.

“What we’re talking about is their ultimate means of enforcement, and if these cases are prosecuted that’s really going to burn them badly,” said Peter Wacks, a former FBI special agent who spent years investigating labor union corruption and the Chicago underworld.

The nine-count, 41-page indictment unsealed Monday charged 14 mobsters and mob associates, 11 of them with a racketeering conspiracy that involved 18 long-unsolved murders.

Among those charged were James Marcello, 63, described by the FBI as the mob’s top leader in Chicago, and Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, 75, longtime don of the mob’s Grand Avenue street crew.

Lombardo went to prison in 1982 along with Teamsters International president Roy Lee Williams for corruption in the union’s Central States Pension Fund. He and reputed mob enforcer Frank “the German” Schweihs, 75, were the only two people named in the latest indictment who remained at large Tuesday.

The Teamsters trial marked the opening round in the modern campaign to put the “Chicago Outfit” — as the city’s organized crime family is known — on ice.

Since then, a parade of mobsters and has gone to prison. Rocco Infelice, onetime boss of the suburban Cicero mob, is serving 63 years for his conviction on gambling conspiracy charges. South suburban organized crime figure Albert Tocco was sentenced to 200 years behind bars.

More recently, the man prosecutors say took over from Infelice, Michael Spano, and former Cicero President Betty Loren Maltese were among seven defendants convicted of swindling the Chicago suburb out of millions of dollars in insurance funds.

The new indictment charges that 11 of the 14 defendants took part in a racketeering conspiracy that included 18 individuals whose murders had long lingered unsolved on the books.

What makes the indictment more powerful, experts say, is that it lumps together leaders of three of the four street crews working in the Chicago area as part of a racketeering enterprise that encompasses the entire Chicago Outfit.

“It’s something that has never really happened before — an omnibus indictment of the major street crews of Chicago,” says historian Richard Lindberg, author of 11 books about the mob and corruption, including “Return to the Scene of the Crime: A Guide to Infamous Places in Chicago.”

“It’s going to put a significant crimp in organized crime, and it certainly debunks the view that some state politicians have had that organized crime is a thing of the past,” he said.

Mob watchers say the organized crime shoot-em-up that raged in the Chicago area in the 1950s and flared again in the 1980s has settled down considerably. They say hoodlums have sought to keep a low profile while street gangs have largely supplanted them as a source of violence.

Few if any, however, believe that the latest indictment will completely decapitate an organization that has been a presence in the city since the Black Hand — a predecessor of the modern mob — started shaking down the bakers and laundry truck drivers almost a century ago.

When the old boss goes to prison, the underboss will inevitably take over, says Jim McGough, director of Laborers for Justice, which crusades for reform in the Laborers International Union.

“They will have slicker people, more sophisticated, maybe law school background,” McGough said. “But the beast will grow a new head.”



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