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'The Clown' might have left country

April 27, 2005


Has The Clown left the country?

That's what investigators wanted to know Tuesday as they tried to find reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, who's considered to be on the lam.

In an indictment unsealed Monday, Lombardo was charged with being part of a criminal enterprise that took part in 18 mob hits and one attempted murder over several decades.

Lombardo, 75, of Chicago, and another man charged in the case, alleged mob hit man Frank Schweihs, also 75, of Dania, Fla., fled before the indictment was announced Monday. Twelve other men were charged in the case.

The fact that neither Lombardo nor Schweihs had been under surveillance before agents tried to round them up early Monday stunned some law enforcement officials.

Such tracking isn't always done, but finding and keeping tabs on someone in the days or weeks before they're about to be picked up is fairly common in high-profile cases and those in which suspects are deemed to be a flight risk.

"Certainly Lombardo would fit in both those categories; I'm surprised they didn't" keep a better eye on him, an official said.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirmed that Lombardo and Schweihs were not being watched immediately prior to Monday's roundup. But he dismissed criticism, saying such surveillance is not always practical because of logistics and manpower. It "really depends on the circumstances," he said. "I don't think it was deemed necessary" in this instance.

Considered violent

Another law enforcement source suggested there was a risk to putting the men indicted in the case under surveillance. The defendants were aware their indictments were coming soon, and if they figured out they were being watched, they might try to bolt. Some of the men under indictment were highly paranoid and quite skilled at spotting surveillance.

Lombardo was often difficult to keep tabs on over a long period of time because he rarely stayed in one place overnight for very long, moving from a social club to his own residence to a friend's place, authorities said.

Investigators were following up leads on Tuesday to find Lombardo and Schweihs. One possibility considered is that Lombardo fled to Curacao in the Caribbean, where he allegedly has gambling interests.

"If you're in the Marine Corps, you'd say he was AWOL," said Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin, adding he has no idea where Lombardo is. "I hope no harm has come to him, and I don't think it has. ... I have no reason to believe he's out of the country. That's absolutely ridiculous."

Schweihs, who is considered violent and unpredictable, moved out of his daughters' place in Dania a few weeks ago and went on the run, authorities said.

Two former Chicago cops were caught up in the indictment, but Mayor Daley said Tuesday the Chicago Police Department is as free of mob influence as it can possibly be.

Contributing: Frank Main and Fran Spielman

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