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Daily Herald

The mob in the burbs

Posted Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New charges dust off old skeletons

Chuck Fagan has seen the effects of organized crime, and they aren't pretty.

As a deputy for the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Chuck Fagan looked into an attempted mob hit in 1982.

The victim, Nicholas Sarillo Sr., was driving in Wauconda when an explosion flattened his van and sent it off the road.

The blast imbedded a heavy coil spring in the victim's neck. Sarillo was injured, but survived. Though suffering and his face covered in soot, he remained silent.

Detectives suspected the explosion was mob-related, but Sarillo didn't want to talk about it.

"It looked like a cartoon face, all in black," remembered Fagan, now chief of police in Antioch. "But when you try to talk to these fellas, it's like talking to a wall. Even in that pain and agony, they've got nothing to say."

A recent round of federal indictments describes such an incident, though it does not identify the victim, bringing back recollections of suburban mob activity throughout the decades.

The indictments turn the soil on buried memories of the heyday of the mob. The charges demonstrate again that the Outfit has had a home in the suburbs since long before TV's Tony Soprano moved to New Jersey.

Of the 18 murders charged in the federal "Family Secrets" investigation, four occurred in the suburbs.

Of 11 defendants, six lived in the suburbs, including the alleged leader of La Cosa Nostra in Chicago, James Marcello of Lombard.

The murders occurred between 1970 and 1986. While the indictments have received a lot of media attention, they only touch the surface of the history of organized crime outside Chicago.

A litany of mob-related stories have gone down in the suburbs - murder at the Rouse House, allegations of mob activity at Sam Giancana's Villa Venice and a vendetta to the death between rival gang members.

A quick look back shows organized crime has always gone where money can be made through gambling, sex, juice loans or illegal substances - even in the quiet, leafy subdivisions of suburbia.

Capo Capone

Even before Fox Lake was incorporated in 1907, the village was known as a destination for drinking and gambling, according to the Chicago Historical Society.

After reform in Chicago moved vice to suburban roadhouses, business flourished during Prohibition in the Roaring '20s.

Al Capone spent time at the Mineola Hotel in Fox Lake, which still displays his hat in a glass case in the lounge. Capone's rival, George "Bugs" Moran, supplied booze to Lake County, according to news accounts from that time.

In 1930, a year after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, five people were shot and three killed in a mob-related hit at the Manning Hotel in Fox Lake.

The Fox Lake Massacre was the worst incident of Prohibition-era gang violence in Lake County. And the crime was never solved.

The Manning Hotel still stands, but is now a home next to the KK Hamsher Funeral Home on Pistakee Lake.

Terrible Touhy

Capone's reign didn't go unchallenged, according to mob historians. Roger "The Terrible" Touhy, son of a Chicago cop, stood up to Capone, but paid the price.

As crime author Richard Lindberg tells the tale, Touhy lived in Des Plaines, and bootlegged beer and slot machines across the Northwest suburbs during Prohibition.

He refused to reduce his price when Capone claimed his kegs were leaking.

In retaliation, Capone used his influence to set up Touhy, Lindberg said.

In 1933, John "Jake the Barber" Factor, the brother of cosmetics czar Max Factor and an acquaintance of Capone, claimed to be the victim of a kidnapping and fingered Touhy.

Touhy was sent to prison in Joliet, and busted out at gunpoint in 1942, but was caught and sentenced to 199 years.

Years later, a federal judge concluded Factor had fabricated his own kidnapping and freed Touhy.

In 1959 - just 23 days after getting out - Touhy was gunned down in Chicago, presumably by a Capone gang member. His dying words, according to The People's Almanac, were, "I've been expecting it. The (expletive deleted) never forget."

Villa Venice

In the 1960s, mob boss Sam "Momo" Giancana ran a restaurant and nightclub on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling called the Villa Venice Supper Club.

Located where Allgauer's Restaurant now sits, near the Des Plaines River, the Villa Venice had a boat landing with Venetian lanterns on the banks, where patrons could ride in a gondola.

For an out-of-the-way club, the Villa Venice somehow got top-flight talent, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, and then-popular singer Eddie Fisher.

Sinatra's daughter Tina wrote in her book that to repay Giancana for help getting the union vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960, her father brought the Rat Pack to do several shows at the Villa Venice.

One of the shows is still available on a CD, "The Rat Pack - Live at the Villa Venice."

In 1967, the theater and restaurant burned down in a mysterious fire.

Bill Hein, a member of the Wheeling Historical Society, was at the Rat Pack show. He said the club was gorgeous, with satin ceilings and tapestries, and the show was fabulous.

Hein, a former volunteer firefighter in Wheeling, was also there the night Villa Venice burned down.

"I've never seen anything go up so quick in my life," he said.

Giancana was shot and killed while cooking in his basement kitchen in Oak Park in 1975.

In the years Villa Venice was open, according to, the FBI estimated the supper club and gambling at the nearby Quonset Hut grossed over $3 million.

Lake corruption

By the 1970s and '80s, mob influence peaked in Lake County, in particular, according to investigators like Bob Schrader, who became head of the Lake County Sheriff's first organized crime unit.

Mob watchers attribute the rise in crime to expansion and corruption.

The stage was set in 1975, when then-Sheriff Orville "Pat" Clavey and former Lake County Board Chairman Ronald Coles were charged with taking payments from nude dance clubs.

Clavey went to prison, and Coles got probation.

In ensuing years, the Joseph Ferriola mob crew expanded to take over all vice in Lake County.

One of the crew's more colorful characters was Salvatore DeLaurentis of Inverness - known as "Solly D" - a stylish businessman who ran a liquor store, bowling alley and pizza parlor in Island Lake.

According to federal prosecutors, DeLaurentis worked for Ernest "Rocco" Infelise, underboss for the Ferriola crew.

According to court documents, Infelise said he bribed someone in the Lake County Sheriff's Department to notify him in advance of raids.

Under his oversight, card and dice games were played in bars, and juice loans charged 10 percent per month or week.

Prostitution ran out of two notorious strip joints, federal prosecutors said: the Roman House on Milwaukee Avenue near Lincolnshire, and The Cheetah on Half Day Road, as well as Businessman's Consultants adult bookstore in Mundelein.

All of those businesses have long since closed.

Investigators estimated that the Ferriola crew ran gambling in Lake County from 1974 through 1988, with profits of more than $10 million.

Much of the money was hidden in real estate, including condominiums in Addison, investigators say.

The Rouse House

Gambling and much worse took place in one particularly cursed home, known as the Rouse House.

It all began on June 6, 1980, when Darlene and Bruce Rouse were killed in bed in their mansion located on Milwaukee Avenue north of Libertyville.

The murders went unsolved for 15 years, until their son, Billy, confessed, in one case that was not mob-related.

In the meantime, the house was home to another murder involving a different family.

By 1982, prosecutors said, the mob had bought the house and turned it into a casino, with fixed craps and blackjack. They allegedly raked in more than a half-million dollars in two weeks.

When independent bookmaker Robert Plummer, who was not connected to the games at the Rouse House, refused to give a cut to the mob, William Jahoda, a federal informant, testified that he lured Plummer inside the Rouse house.

Jahoda said he heard Plummer cry out and saw him pinned against a wall by mob members. Plummer's body was later found in the trunk of a car at a Holiday Inn in Mundelein.

Infelise and DeLaurentis were later convicted in the case and sent to prison, where DeLaurentis remains and Infelise died just last month.

Ferriola died in 1989, though his operation continued.

In 2002, though the house was vacant, the rambling, 13-room, $600,000 "Murder Mansion" burned to the ground.

Playboy Hal Smith

Hal Smith was known as the playboy of Prospect Heights after the IRS found $600,000 in gambling proceeds in a raid on his pillared mansion in 1983.

After the raid, according to federal court documents, DeLaurentis stepped up efforts to get a piece of Smith's bookmaking.

When Smith refused and responded with a string of ethnic slurs, DeLaurentis warned him he'd be "trunk music," according to federal prosecutors.

In 1985, Jahoda, the federal informant, met Smith at a bar and brought him back to his house on Hilltop Road in Long Grove.

Jahoda testified that he last saw Smith slumped on the floor with Infelise and others around him.

Smith's body was found in the trunk of his car at the Arlington Park Hilton. Smith had been strangled, beaten, cut and had his throat slit.

The Spilotros

Tony "The Ant" Spilotro handled the Chicago mob's business in Las Vegas, but after Outfit leaders were convicted of skimming money from the casinos, Tony and his brother Michael disappeared in 1986, federal prosecutors said.

Their badly beaten bodies were found in a cornfield in Indiana, where the coroner said they had been buried alive.

The infamous incident became the basis for a scene in the movie "Casino," in which Joe Pesci played a role similar to The Ant.

Now the story has changed slightly to have happened in the suburbs, according to the recent federal indictment.

An FBI agent testified that a mob informant said James Marcello had brought the Spilotro brothers to a basement near Bensenville, by Route 83 and Irving Park Road, under the ruse that they were to be elevated in rank within the mob.

In the basement, the Spilotros were jumped, beaten and strangled - and then buried in the cornfield.

That was then ...

All these crimes go back almost 20 years or more.

The mob's low profile since then raises the question of how much of it remains.

The FBI said the latest indictments put a "hit" on the mob, so the organization remains alive, but smaller.

Sports and video gambling make big money, and unions and political connections provide jobs and benefits.

Most recently, the FBI alleges the mob is trying to get a piece of the proposed casino in Rosemont, a charge village officials strongly dispute.

The most dangerous aspect of the mob, according to former Chicago Crime Commission investigator Wayne Johnson, is its corruption of government through contributions, bribes and sponsored judges.

With investigators' attention focused on past crimes, homeland security, community policing and street gangs, Johnson worries, "Nobody is looking at these guys anymore."

The Daily Herald relied on interviews, newspaper accounts, court documents and information from Illinois Police & Sheriff's News and organized crime watchdog groups for this account.  

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