Chicago Sun-Times

The Outfit on trial

Inside the Family Secrets mob trial with Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir

More on Mob Wives

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In case anyone missed it, here is the link to the story on Mob Wives from the Chicago Sun-Times' television critic, Lori Rackl.

There is also a photo gallery.

Mob Wives press release

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The cast of the Chicago version of Mob Wives has been announced. Here is a copy of the official press release from the show.


Franchise's First Spin-off to Premiere Spring 2012

Los Angeles, CA (March 6, 2012) - As the second season of VH1's ratings hit "Mob Wives" continues to captivate fans with the never-ending, real-life drama in New York, the network introduces a new group of "Syndicate Sisters" with the debut of the franchise's first spin-off, "Mob Wives Chicago," to premiere Spring 2012.

"Mob Wives Chicago" follows the lives of five women allegedly connected to "The Outfit," Chicago's version of the Mob, as they bear the cross for the sins of their Mob-associated fathers. With lives that are right off the pages of a story book, each woman has chosen her own way to live her life in the city that was once home to Al Capone, sometimes in spite of and many times because of who her father is. Along the way these women battle their friends, families and each other as they try to do what's best for themselves and their children. But ultimately, it is the ghost of their fathers they battle, living and dead, as they try to overcome and persevere in the face of these men's notorious legacies.

Meet the cast of "Mob Wives Chicago":

RENEE FECAROTTA RUSSO: Renee is a strong independent businesswoman who was raised by her uncle, "Big John" Fecarotta, following the death of her father. An alleged loan collector and hit man for "The Outfit," Fecarotta was Renee's mentor and best friend until being gunned down by fellow mobster Nick Calabrese. Fiercely loyal to his memory, Renee still abides by the "code": never associate with rats...take it to the grave.

NORA SCHWEIHS: Nora is back in Chicago to take care of some unfinished business. Nora's father, Frank "The German" Schweihs, was reputed to be one of the most notorious hit men for the Mob. Schwiehs, whose alleged "hits" were not limited to the Mob, has long been rumored to be responsible for the death of Marilyn Monroe. Shortly after his death in 2008, the government confiscated his remains before he could be properly buried. Nora has returned to Chicago to learn the whereabouts of his body. Despite growing up hearing stories of his viciousness and brutality, Nora idolized her father and she continues to defend him... even to his grave.

PIA RIZZA: Pia may have a mouth like a trucker, but she's spoken zip about her father since she was a little girl. Vincent Rizza was a dirty Chicago cop who worked for the Mob, testified against the Mob and then went into the Witness Protection Program. Pia has struggled all her life to hide from the shame of having a "rat" for a father. It's been especially difficult to avoid the judgments and finger pointing in a town that celebrates the folk heroes and glory days of the Mob.

CHRISTINA SCOLERI: As an unemployed divorced mother of a 9-year-old, Christina is struggling to provide a stable environment for her daughter. Christina is the daughter of Raymond Janek, a one-time thief and alleged fence for the Mob. Serving 20 years off and on for various offenses, Janek finally went straight in 1987, and his relationship with his daughter remains distant. Christina's father is a reminder of her own unstable upbringing, and she's determined not to repeat the sins of her father.

LEAH DESIMONE: Leah is the over-protected daughter of William "Wolf" DeSimone, a supposed "associate" of the Mob, but Leah's keeping mum. Leah never knew, and knew never to ask what her Dad did for a living. Leaving one day in a suit, Wolf would return days later in street clothes with no explanation and none expected. Now "retired," Wolf still keeps tabs on his little girl. But as vigilant as he is of her safety, Leah is equally secretive of her Dad's profession ... if you're "connected," you NEVER talk about it!

For additional information about "Mob Wives" visit the official VH1 Mob Wives site at Viewers can also find series updates on Facebook at and on Twitter @VH1 with the hashtag #MobWivesChicago.

Ambrose loses appeal

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Former U.S. Deputy Marshal John Ambrose, sentenced to four years in prison after leaking secrets to the Chicago Outfit, has lost his appeal.

In a 48-page decision, the U.S. District Court of Appeals shot down Ambrose's arguments that his statements to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI's chief in Chicago, Robert Grant, should have been excluded from trial.

The court also rejected arguments that prosecutors should not have been allowed to introduce at Ambrose's trial several secretly recorded conversations between two mobsters. The two mobsters, Outfit boss James Marcello and his half-brother, Michael Marcello, were discussing information Ambrose leaked about Nick Calabrese, the mob killer who later turned into a star federal witness for the government's historic prosecutions in the Family Secrets case. Calabrese was in witness protection when Ambrose was assigned to guard him during Calabrese's trips to Chicago. Ambrose leaked information to the mob about what Calabrese was telling the feds.

The appeal court judges also affirmed Ambrose's prison sentence, which was beyond the suggested guidelines, but asked the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to reexamine its decision to place Ambrose in the same federal prison in Texas where his father, a crooked Chicago cop sentenced as part of the Marquette Ten scandal, died decades ago.

In a stinging rebuke at the end of the decision, the opinion noted: "The men and women who serve our citizenry in the U.S. Marshals Service are deeply dedicated, intelligent and extraordinarily courageous public servants. It is no exaggeration to say that they are the bulwark of our democracy. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a U.S. Marshal. Thus, the actions of John T. Ambrose are beyond comprehension."

Szaflarski sentencing date kicked

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Chicago video poker king Casey Szaflarski was supposed to be sentenced Wednesday, but his sentencing date has been moved as the judge in his case wraps up another trial.

Szaflarksi, 53, faces 33 to 41 months in prison. The judge has not yet set a new sentencing date.

New Sarno sentencing date

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Reputed Cicero mob crew boss Michael Sarno has had his sentencing date moved from this Friday to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8, 2012.

His attorney, Jeff Steinback, considered one of the best in Chicago on sentencing issues, asked for a new court date because Steinback has a sick family member, according to a court filing.

Sarno could face 25 years in prison when he is sentenced.

Polchan gets 60 years

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Mark Polchan -- a high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle club who was also the righthand man to a Chicago mob boss -- was sentenced Friday to 60 years in prison for helping run a group of criminals who robbed jewelry stores and bombed a business in Berwyn.

Polchan, 43, looked over at one of his attorneys, his eyes wide, after U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman handed down the prison sentence.

"Every dollar he made had a victim," Guzman said of Polchan, who ran a pawn shop in Cicero that the judge said was "the epicenter" of the organized criminal enterprise.

Polchan was a career criminal who treated his family well but was in the business of "terrorizing the rest of
us," the judge said.

Polchan oversaw a group of men who robbed jewelry stores and also arranged for the bombing of a Berwyn business that was competing with a video-poker business run by reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Sarno, who is to be sentenced next month.

Polchan's attorneys argued that he wasn't a leader of the organization and that much of the tesitmony against him at trial was from unreliable informants -- arguments the judge rejected.

Polchan declined to make a statement to the judge.

"You honor, I was gonna say some things, but I'm kind of overwhelmed by some of the things I heard," Polchan said, after a description of his wrongdoing by federal prosecutor Amarjeet S. Bhachu. "I can't do it."

In handing down the sentence, Guzman said, "The public needs to be protected from Mr. Polchan and the idea that organized criminal activity might be worth something, might be worth doing."

The case was investigated by the ATF, the FBI and the IRS.

Sarno sentencing delayed

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Reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Sarno's sentencing has been delayed to Nov. 18.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman is set to sentence him at 10:30 a.m. at the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn.

Prosecutors are asking for Sarno to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. Sarno's attorneys about 3 years is more appropriate under the law.

Updated sentencing dates in the Sarno case

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Here are some updated sentencing dates and times for the defendants in the Michael Sarno trial.

All times are subject to change.

Sam Volpendesto: 2 p.m. 8/17

Michael Sarno: 10:30 a.m. 9/19

Casey Szaflarski: 10:30 a.m. 9/28

Mark Polchan: His sentencing date has been cancelled, and a new one has not been set yet, according to the court docket.

All sentencings take place before U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman in Courtroom 1219.

Some new sentencing dates for Sarno and Co.

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For all the blog readers writing in and asking about the new sentencing dates, here is the latest information.

Michael Sarno is to be sentenced September 19. He has hired one of the best defense attorneys in Chicago who specializes in sentencing, Jeff Steinback. It will be interesting to see what Steinback produces in his sentencing filings. Steinback has represented many high-profile defendants in Chicago.

Mark Polchan is to be sentenced August 18.

Sam Volpendesto is to be sentenced August 8. Anthony Volpendesto is to be sentenced August 4.

A new sentencing date is not listed in the court docket for Casey Szaflarski.

More details to come as they become available.

Some new sentencing dates

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Lots of questions about new sentencing dates on the Michael Sarno case.

Here's what's been set so far, according to the court docket.

Sam and Anthony Volpendesto 2 p.m. 6/29.
James Formato 2 p.m. 6/8.
Michael Sarno 10:30 a.m. 7/27.

If another defendant in the case isn't mentioned above, the new date hasn't been set yet, according to the court docket.

Sentencing dates typically get reset because of scheduling conflicts or to allow attorneys more time to file their motions.

A Family Secrets juror's fascinating, funny perspective

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Here's something definitely worth checking out.

Juror No. 264, who was selected for the Family Secrets jury, is writing for the first time about his experience as a juror on his own family's blog that you can find here.

It's a fascinating and suprisingly funny series of anecdotes about what it's like to go through such an intense experience of sitting on a jury in judgment of some of the worst mob killers in Chicago history, under intense media scrutiny.

The juror's wife also explores what it's like for a spouse to be under great pressure too.

The juror is just getting started blogging on his experiences, so it's well worth plunging into.

Sarno's conflicting health claims?

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In case you missed this in our online or print version:

At a recent organized crime trial in federal court, reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Sarno was depicted by federal prosecutors as a busy guy -- threatening a competitor and later ordering the man's business bombed, while keeping up with day-to-day Outfit business.

Around the same time, though, Sarno presented himself in a worker's compensation claim and a lawsuit as quite a different man -- one seriously injured in an accident while working as a trade show carpenter at McCormick Place -- an injury that resulted in settlements for Sarno of more than $250,000.

Sarno, 52, was convicted in December of racketeering conspiracy and faces 25 years in prison. His injury claim was briefly mentioned at trial.

"He was certainly mobile enough to threaten people and conduct his mob-related business with considerable vigor," said former federal Chicago mob prosecutor T. Markus Funk, who investigated Sarno.

"While having two jobs is, of course, not unheard of, it would not be unfair to raise a skeptic's eyebrow about a claim that Sarno, on the one hand, worked as a brutal mob boss running a multifaceted criminal enterprise, and at the same time punched his union carpenter ticket, banging in nails and whittling wood," Funk said. "Not to be uncharitable, but that, frankly, is a level of multi-tasking few on the street would -- for a variety of reasons -- credit him with possessing."

Sarno was taking down a trade show exhibit on Aug., 17, 2000, when he was asked to climb onto a forklift to provide ballast as the forklift moved some heavy material. The job usually took two people, but Sarno -- whose mob nicknames include "Large" and "the Large Guy" -- was big enough at about 330 pounds for the job at McCormick Place, then a common workplace for mobsters.

The material on the forklift started to tip, and Sarno tried to jump, but was hit in the back of the head by a handrail that had been loaded on and knocked unconscious.

"I remember going to jump, and I remember waking up on the floor," Sarno said in a 2003 deposition, about six months after a Berwyn business was bombed on his orders. He was later convicted in trial for the bombing.

Sarno suffered knee and neck injuries. While no one disputed he got hurt, the severity of his injuries came into question.

Sarno filed a worker's compensation claim against his employer, Eagle Management Group, and sued the company that ran the trade show, Freeman Decorating Co. Sarno claimed he couldn't help around the house or jog like he had in the past. Even his sex life suffered. But in the deposition, an attorney for Freeman, Bob Yelton, questioned Sarno on whether he had told his physical therapist he was strong as a bull and was not taking any pain medication. Sarno disputed that, and his attorney, Antonio Romanucci, last week in an interview rejected any suggestion that Sarno was exaggerating his injury, noting the size of the settlement, arrived at through mediation.

"You don't pay that much money for a nuisance-value case," Romanucci said.

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