Federal prosecutors added new details Thursday to an indictment of half a dozen reputed organized crime figures in some of Chicago's most notorious gangland slayings, charging reputed mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr. with taking part in 13 of the killings.
By linking the six reputed mob figures by name to 18 murders in all, prosecutors considerably increased the stakes: Each faces up to life in prison if convicted in connection with even one homicide, authorities said.
The superseding indictment handed up Thursday provided no new details on how the murders were carried out--only who was allegedly involved. Prosecutors charged one or two defendants in each murder and then referred to "others" alleged to have taken part without identifying them.
But Calabrese, once the mob's top loan shark in Chicago, held the ignominious honor of being charged with more of the slayings than anyone else by far--13 of the 18 murders, including the 1980 killing of mob hit man William Petrocelli.
Calabrese was also charged in connection with the attempted murder of a Lake County man in 1982.
Authorities have revealed in court that the source for much of their information in the slayings came from Calabrese's younger brother, Nicholas, a mob hit man-turned-informant who has implicated himself in 15 slayings.
Despite Nick Calabrese's claim, he was charged in only one murder with his brother--of John Fecarotta, a mob enforcer who reportedly was killed for bungling the burial of organized crime figures Anthony and Michael Spilotro after their slayings in 1986.
Nick Calabrese's lawyer, John Theis, said the murder charge against his client won't affect plea negotiations with the government.
"I'm satisfied that we will finalize the plea agreement long before this case is set for trial," Theis said. The plea agreement will recognize Calabrese's cooperation, he said.
As alleged at a bond hearing in April, James Marcello, identified by prosecutors as head of the Chicago mob, was charged with the Spilotros' murders as well as the slaying of Nicholas D'Andrea in 1981.
Reputed mob bosses Joseph "the Clown" Lombardo and Frank "the German" Schweihs were charged in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, a plastics firm owner who was to be a key witness in a trial involving Lombardo and others.
Schweihs also was charged with joining co-defendant Paul Schiro in a 1986 gangland murder in Phoenix.
Lombardo and Schweihs remain fugitives since federal authorities unsealed the charges in late April.
A seventh defendant was originally charged in connection with the murders, but he was found dead on the day the FBI-led investigation went public.
Seven others were also charged in connection with gambling and other offenses.
Attorney Joseph R. Lopez, who represents Frank Calabrese Sr., said his client was innocent of the murder charges.
"I'm surprised and shocked by these allegations," Lopez said. "My client wasn't involved. My reaction is, are you sure the government's not talking about Nick Calabrese?"
Frank Calabrese, a frail 69-year-old, limped into a federal courtroom and complained of a host of health problems as he pleaded not guilty last month. He is serving a nearly 10-year prison term for a 1997 conviction for using violence to collect several million dollars in extortionate loans.
Attorney Rick Halprin, who represents Lombardo, ridiculed the new indictments as devoid of any detail. He contends that Lombardo has an alibi for when Seifert was killed.
"That indictment tells me absolutely nothing," he said.