January 6, 2006
BY MIKE ROBINSON ASSOCIATED PRESS
A reputed mob enforcer who eluded a federal manhunt for eight months
before FBI agents swooped down on him deep in the Kentucky hill country
three weeks ago pleaded not guilty Friday to racketeering and extortion
"Why is all the news media here?" Frank "The German" Schweihs asked
as he waited for U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys to call his case.
"I don't know, slow day," defense attorney Dennis Berkson said with a
Schweihs, 75, the craggy, tough-looking alleged enforcer who
according to prosecutors squeezed "street-tax" payments out of strip
joints, leaned on a cane as he stood in court.
He is one of 14 reputed mob figures under indictment in the FBI's
Operation Family Secrets investigation of long-unsolved murders.
Schweihs is also one of two defendants who slipped out of sight eight
months ago just before federal prosecutors unveiled the indictment,
which outlines an alleged 15-year racketeering conspiracy that included
at least 19 slayings.
The other fugitive, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, is still on the
Chicago FBI agents got a tip in mid-December concerning the
whereabouts of Schweihs and agents arrested him without incident Dec. 16
outside his Berea, Ky., apartment in the rugged hill country 40 miles
south of Lexington.
Schweihs' homecoming was attended by Robert D. Grant, special agent
in charge of the FBI's Chicago office and about a dozen other agents,
including members of the FBI's organized-crime squad who spent years
working on the Family Secrets investigation.
Keys ordered Schweihs to appear before U.S. District Judge James B.
Zagel on Jan. 17 when the other defendants are also due in court for a
Schweihs was shown a copy of the indictment and he said it was the
first time that he had seen it. After Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell
A. Mars read the charges, Keys asked Schweihs if he had understood them.
"I didn't understand it but I heard what he said," Schweihs said.
Schweihs was then taken back to the Metropolitan Correctional Center
where he is to be held pending trial. Schweihs could get life in prison
if convicted of the racketeering charges.
Several female friends including his sister Barbara were on hand for
"Good-bye, Frank," one said as husky marshals led Schweihs out the
door in handcuffs.
Berkson told reporters after the hearing that Schweihs was eager for
his day in court and "believes that when all of the evidence is in he
will be acquitted."
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