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Joey “The Clown” Lombardo captured

By Todd Lighty and Matt O’Connor
Tribune staff reporters
Published January 13, 2006, 10:14 PM CST

After nine months on the lam, reputed mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo was captured Friday night in Elmwood Park, according to an FBI spokesman.

Lombardo had been a fugitive since April, when federal prosecutors charged him and more than a dozen other defendants in 18 Outfit-related murders dating to 1970.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice said Lombardo was arrested without incident. Authorities said they were planning to release a fuller account of Lombardo's apprehension at a news conference Saturday.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, said the U.S. Attorney's office notified him of the arrest Friday night. Halprin said he had been given no details.

"I don't think we have a great chance of pre-trial release," Halprin said.

Prosecutors charged Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs with the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a Bensenville businessman scheduled to testify against Lombardo and others in a Teamsters pension fund fraud case.

Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix.

Schweihs was a fugitive for eight months before being captured in December in a small town in Kentucky.

FBI officials said Lombardo and Schweihs had apparently disappeared a "significant time" before the indictments in order to avoid capture.

Lombardo, a longtime resident of Chicago's West Town neighborhood, has two separate federal convictions in the 1980s-for conspiring to bribe U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada for help in defeating a trucking deregulation bill and for scheming to skim $ 2 million from a Las Vegas casino.

While Lombardo has been missing, he was apparently not silent. Two attorneys reported getting letters from Lombardo, which they turned over to federal authorities.

In May, Halprin, Lombardo's defense lawyer, Rick Halprin, delivered a four-page letter to a federal judge purportedly written by Lombardo. The letter said Lombardo would surrender if he would be released on his own recognizance and prosecuted in a separate trial after the fate of his co-defendants had been decided.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel promptly rejected the offer

"Judge, I am in dire strate [sic] at this time at 76 yr old to live my life peaceful until I die," the letter read.

Halprin said he also got a letter in August, which indicated that Lombardo offered to take truth serum or a lie detector test if the FBI supervisor and its informant did too.

Another purported Lombardo letter -- with a Chicago postmark-surfaced in September. This time the recipient was Robert Stephenson, the attorney for Rosemont Mayor Donald Stephens and the village of Rosemont.

That letter denied the testimony in July of an FBI supervisor who said Lombardo and other high-ranking organized crime figures met in 1999 with Stephens to discuss what control the mob would have over contracts at the suburb's then-proposed casino.

Stephenson said the letter was signed "Joseph Lombardo an innocent man"-similar wording to a missive in May seeking to negotiate a surrender.

FBI officials had offered up to $20,000 apiece for information leading to the arrests of the Lombardo and Schweihs.

Tribune staff reporter Michael Higgins contributed to this article.



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