|FBI indicts 14 reputed mob figures
CHICAGO (AP) — FBI agents were always sure that 18 unsolved murders, some dating back more than three decades, were ordered by some of the top men in the Chicago mob. But they were never able to arrest anyone for the crimes — until now.
Before first light on Monday, government agents with arrest warrants in hand began knocking on the doors of major organized crime figures in the Chicago area, Florida and Arizona, following what federal officials described as the most far-reaching mob indictment in Chicago in decades.
Fourteen reputed mob figures, including two retired policemen, were indicted as a result of a racketeering case charging conspiracy to commit 18 murders dating as far back as 1970.
Those indicted included 63-year-old James Marcello, identified by FBI officials as the leader of organized crime in Chicago, and longtime mob leader Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, 75. Marcello was arrested, and a manhunt for Lombardo was under way in Chicago.
"The mob takes a hit today," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters in announcing the charges.
The murders included those of the Chicago mob's one-time top man in Las Vegas, Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro, 48, and his brother, Michael, 41, whose bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. Joe Pesci played a character based on Tony Spilotro in the 1995 Martin Scorcese movie "Casino."
It has been reported for years that the Spilotro brothers were buried alive in the field, but Fitzgerald said Monday they were killed elsewhere before the bodies were dumped.
The indictment — resulting from an investigation code-named Operation Family Secrets — alleges that 11 of the 14 defendants were involved in the murder conspiracy and that seven actually murdered someone or agreed to commit murder. The three remaining defendants were charged with other crimes.
Prosecutors said all of those charged were connected in some way to the Chicago mob, also known as the Chicago Outfit or the Chicago Syndicate. Among those charged were two retired police officers accused of informing one of the suspects about possible mob members who were helping federal investigators.
"This is the first investigation that I can recall and indictment I can recall that involves so many murders, which really go to the heart of what the LCN (La Cosa Nostra) is, a bunch of murderous thugs," said Robert D. Grant, agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.
Authorities found all but two of the defendants — Lombardo and alleged mob enforcer Frank Schweihs, 75, of Dania Beach, Fla.
Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halperin, denied his client was involved in any of the activities and said he was not a fugitive.
"He looks more like a throw-in than anything else," Halperin said.
Lombardo was previously convicted in federal court in Chicago in a major mob investigation of corruption involving the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.
Another defendant, Frank Saladino, 59, was found dead Monday morning in a hotel room in Illinois when FBI agents went to arrest him. They said he appeared to have died of natural causes, although the official cause of death had not yet been determined.
Saladino had $25,000 in cash and $70,000 in checks with him in the hotel room, according to FBI agents.
The attorney for James Marcello — Marc W. Martin — did not immediately return calls for comment.
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