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Student photo of reputed mobster is a hit

By Jon Yates and Brendan McCarthy, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Matt O'Connor contributed to this report
Published April 27, 2005

 
The dapper old man on the bicycle looked pretty classy, so Columbia College student Val Carpenter pulled over and asked if she could take his photograph for her class project.

"He said sure, he struck a pose--he actually posed," Carpenter, 42, said Tuesday, shortly after she realized the photo she took along Grand Avenue about a year ago was apparently reputed Chicago mob boss Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.

The feds wish they could be so lucky and simply run into Lombardo on the street.

Lombardo, 76, was indicted Monday on federal racketeering conspiracy charges and is the subject of an international manhunt.

Lombardo and Frank Schweihs, 75, a reputed mob hit man from Florida, were the only two of 14 men indicted in "Operation Family Secrets" whom federal agents were still searching for, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said Tuesday.

An FBI organized-corruption squad in Chicago that led the investigation into unsolved mob killings was knocking on doors of Lombardo's relatives and associates Tuesday, Ross said.

The FBI office in Miami was coordinating the search for Schweihs, whose last known address was in Dania, Fla.

"We've been fielding calls from the public offering tips and possible sightings," Rice said. "But nothing has panned out yet."

Rick Halprin, Lombardo's lawyer, had said Monday he expected his client to turn himself in.

Halprin on Tuesday confirmed that it is indeed Lombardo on his bicycle in Carpenter's picture. (The photograph appears on Page 1 of Wednesday's Tribune.)

Halprin said Lombardo's face looked "slightly fuller" in the photo, but that it was "definitely" the man he represented. Halprin said the cigar in the man's right hand and the style of dress was a "dead giveaway."

He noted that the cigar was larger in size than Lombardo's typical cigar, but he reiterated that the well-dressed man on the bike was Lombardo.

Carpenter, who attends Columbia part time, said she was working on a final project photographing people on bicycles when she ran across Lombardo.

She said she took the shot and he asked her if she wanted to take more.

In a hurry, Carpenter declined and pedaled away on her own bike. She said she saw the man occasionally last summer because the two often bicycled along the same route--on Grand Avenue west of the Chicago River.

At the time, she said, she did not know who the man was. She never asked his name but often waved at him.

"He would say, `Hi.' He's just a friendly guy on the street on a bike," Carpenter said. "That's the thing cyclists do."

Even before she realized who it was, Carpenter said the photograph sparked people's interest.

"When people saw that photograph, people were asking, `Who is this guy?' I said I don't know, just some guy I photographed on his bike," she said.

"He generated interest because he does have a style and persona."
 
Carpenter said she figured out it was Lombardo on Tuesday morning after reading that Lombardo had been indicted but was missing. A Tribune article described how Lombardo was often seen riding his bicycle with a small cigar in his mouth after his release from prison in 1992.

The description matched perfectly the man Carpenter had photographed.

Carpenter said she has not seen Lombardo since last summer.

She got an A on her project.

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jyates@tribune.com

bmccarthy@tribune.com

 

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