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

July 2007 Archives

What's a few million dollars between friends?

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george jay vandermark
George Jay Vandermark

George Jay Vandermark was an unusual choice to supervise the slot machine operation at the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas in the mid-1970s.

Vandermark was a crack thief — at stealing coins from slot machines.

But if you're interested in stealing some of those coins for yourself, as the people were at the Stardust, then who better a choice than Vandermark?

Except Vandermark may have been stealing some of the coins for his own private skim.

And it wasn't pocket change.

The murder of Butch Petrocelli

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William "Butch" Petrocelli.jpg
William "Butch" Petrocelli

William "Butch" Petrocelli was a feared killer who ran afoul of mob leaders and wound up in the crosshairs himself.

Angelo "The Hook" LaPietra was the man who set him up, sending him down the block from a Chinatown social club to his death.

Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese recently gave a detailed accout of how Petrocelli was jumped when he entered a nearby office.

"Here he comes," someone said, as Petrocelli approached.

"It happened so fast, he was on the ground," Nicholas Calabrese testified.

Anatomy of a skim

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Dennis Gomes, a former top investigator for the Nevada Gaming Commission, gave jurors in the Family Secrets case a firsthand look at how the skim was done at a Las Vegas casino, the Stardust.

Gomes figured a few of his employees had been corrupted, so he conducted a raid of the Stardust with no notice in May 1976, telling only one of his employees, who came along with him.

Through a little bluff and some clever accounting work, Gomes figured out that the casino was skimming large amounts of money through the slot machines.

You say Spilotro, he says Soprano

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L.J. O'Neale, a deputy district attorney from Clark County, Nev., was talking about a Spilotro court case when he was on the witness stand and made a verbal goof.

O'Neale was talking about a case involving Tony Spilotro in the mid-1980s.

Except he got his mobsters confused.

More family betrayal

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joseph ferriola.jpg
Joseph Ferriola
Nancy Mancini, the former common-law wife of William "Butch" Petrocelli, told jurors Monday when she last saw her husband alive.

It was Dec. 30., 1980, and Petrocelli was leaving their home for the day, telling Mancini he would pick up some New Year's Eve supplies and would meet her later for dinner.

Petrocelli never showed up. Several mobsters jumped him in a setup and killed him.

From juice loans to Hired Trucks

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Ronald Jarrett
Friend to small businessmen?

Carl Galione is a successful businessman. He once had a company that rented out dump trucks to the city as part of the the scandal-tarred Hired Truck program.

But the birth of his business success lay in a juice loan from his friend, reputed Outfit killer Ronald Jarrett, according to Galione's court testimony in the Family Secrets case.

An offer not taken

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William "Billy" Dauber.jpg
William "Billy" Dauber

Investigators had warned William "Billy" Dauber the Outfit had put a hit on him.

One day after a court hearing Dauber attended on July 2, 1980, his handler, ATF Agent Dennis Laughrey, had offered to follow Dauber and his wife, Charlotte home, just to be on the safe side.

Dauber declined.

The decision sealed his fate.


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Even a crack team of federal prosecutors can make a mistake.

Take one photo that they showed jurors in opening statements in the Family Secrets case.

The prosecution said it was a photo of Nicholas D'Andrea, one of 18 mob hit victims.

It looks like they got the wrong guy.

It's a Small World After All

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Michael Cagnoni

James Mammina was driving to work in his Ford Club Wagon van on the morning of June 24, 1981, heading from his condominium in Downers Grove to his father's plant in Summit.

He stopped for a light just before he pulled onto the on-ramp on I-290 in Hinsdale.

A Mercedes pulled up next to him and pulled in front of him onto the ramp.

What he saw next would never leave him.

Does Family Secrets hurt all Italians?

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A few posters to the blog have raised an interesting question.

Is the Family Secrets case once again slurring the vast majority of law-abiding, productive Italian Americans?

Or is it just like any other case getting a lot of attention?

The murder of Emil Vaci

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Emil Vaci was the host at a Phoenix restaurant who had the misfortune of getting a grand jury subpoena.

Outfit leaders decided to silence him.

Nick Calabrese described for jurors recently how he and several other alleged mob killers went about stalking Vaci for weeks in Phoenix before grabbing him as he left his job one night in June 1986.

Nick Calabrese was in a van parked right next to Vaci's car. Calabrese had left the van's sliding door open a crack as he waited for Vaci to leave work.

He heard footsteps as Vaci approached the van.

Tootsie Babe, Part II

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Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso

The son of reputed Outfit killer Ronald Jarrett brought Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso back into focus again at the Family Secrets trial this week.

The younger Ronald Jarrett, who shares his father's name, explained to jurors that after his father was gunned down in 1999 in a mob hit, the younger Jarrett worked with Nick Ferriola, the son of top mobster Joseph Ferriola, to run a bookmaking operation.

Nick Ferriola explained to Jarrett that Frank Calabrese Sr. had said there were certain people you could trust in the Bridgeport/Chinatown neighborhood.

Quip of the day

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Rick Halprin, the attorney for Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, is quick with the quip.

In court on Tuesday, evidence came in on a mob hit that involved a shotgun.

After the jury left and court had wrapped, Halprin saidt:

Victor Cacciatore's story

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Angelo LaPietra
Led the Extortion?

It's the small moments in the Family Secrets trial that get overshadowed but are often fascinating.

Take the testimony of real estate investor Victor Cacciatore.

Cacciatore's testimony came at the end of a long day filled with the cross-examination of the prosecution's star witness, Nicholas Calabrese.

While Calabrese's testimony will get the headlines, Cacciatore's statements contain some interesting nuggets.

The prosecution's one-two punch

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The prosecution's star witness, mob hitman Nicholas Calabrese, took a verbal beating over two days from defense attorneys.

But prosecutor Mitch Mars didn't appear too worried.

He limited his re-direct to only a few minutes of questioning.

One key prosecution point:

Nicholas Calabrese never heard the secret recordings his nephew, Frank Jr., made of his father, Frank Calabrese Sr., while the two men were both in prison in 1999.

Here's why that's important.

The Irish defense

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Attorney Tom Breen may have offered the best cross-examination of the trial yet when he questioned Nick Calabrese on Monday.

Breen's theme throughout his questioning was that Calabrese was either lying about being at some hits or throwing in other participants at some of the killings to increase his value as a witness to the federal government.

Breen is representing reputed top Chicago mob boss James Marcello. Calabrese put Marcello at three murders and one attempted murder.

Breen got Calabrese to admit that he could not recognize the photograph of one of the men he said he killed, Nicholas D'Andrea.

Calabrese said he saw the victim only briefly.

Breen scored other points too.

Not love, not hate

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Nick Calabrese may be the star witness against his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr.

And Nick Calabrese may be describing hits he allegedly went out on with his brother.

He may be burying him with his testimony.

But he doesn't hate him, Nick Calabrese testified Monday.

This is not a test

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Michael "Hambone" Albergo

When Frank Calabrese Sr. told his brother, Nick, they had to find a place to dig a hole to bury someone, Nick thought his brother was kidding, Nick Calabrese has testified.

When they found a spot to Frank Calabrese Sr.'s liking, in a site where a factory was being built, Nick Calabrese figured it was a test.

But it was no test.

The Seifert slaying revealed

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For the first time in public, an Outfit killer described in detail who took part in the 1974 slaying of federal witness Daniel Seifert.

Hitman Nick Calabrese didn't take part in the hit.

But his friend and fellow mob killer John Fecarotta did and filled him in later, Calabrese testified this week.

Fair story or cheap shot?

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Mayor Daley was not happy with the Sun-Times this week.

On the front page was a headline from news made during the Family Secrets trial.

Nicholas Calabrese, who has admitted to killing at least 14 people for the Outfit, testified this week how three men he knew were involved in the bombing of Horwath's Restaurant in the early 1980s.

One of the men allegedly was Fred Barbara, now a millionaire executive who happens to be a friend of Mayor Daley. Barbara was never charged.

How's the Curly girl doing?

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Frank Calabrese Sr., left, and Frank Calabrese Jr.

Want to figure out what's being said in a mob conversation?

Check out the video above, but first, read the description below to get a better idea of what you're seeing and listening to.

Think you're done, think again

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Frank Calabrese Sr.
Foaming at the mouth?

John Nitti figured he had paid off his father's debts.

So he wasn't going to be making any more payments on the juice loans made to his father by Frank Calabrese Sr.

Nitti soon found out how wrong he was.

The humiliation of Shorty

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Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia
Frank Calabrese Sr. may have been quoting the Bible in federal prison.

But he still had time to put his fellow mobster in his place.

Gag 'em

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U.S. District Judge James Zagel has issued a gag order over the lawyers in the Family Secrets case.

The order, which is unusual at the federal courthouse in Chicago, comes after the attorney for Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, got into hot water for verbally bashing a few witnesses on a blog on the case.

The judge's order raises some interesting points.

Why Ronald Jarrett was killed

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Ronald Jarrett

Reputed mob killer and burglar Ronald Jarrett was gunned down outside his Bridgeport home in 1999, but the reasons behind it were never known.

Until now, thanks to the Family Secrets trial.

Frank Calabrese Sr. has left the courtroom

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As prosecutors played a series of secretly recorded conversations between alleged Outfit killer Frank Calabrese Sr. and his son, Frank Jr., while they were in prison, Calabrese Sr. walked out of the courtroom as one conversation began rolling.

Coming up today

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Frank Calabrese Jr.
Frank Calabrese Jr. will wrap up his direct testimony today and get grilled by defense attorneys.

Expect the longest cross from Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, the attorney for Frank Calabrese Sr.

Trying to save a friend and failing

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Tony Borsellino
Frank Calabrese Sr. was not a man without compassion.

At least, according to Frank Calabrese Sr.

He is accused of kiling 13 people for the mob, but he once tried to stop someone from getting whacked, according to court testimony.

Tootsie Babe revealed

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Frank "Tootsie Babe" Caruso, an alleged member of the mob's 26th Street/Chinatown crew, hasn't gotten much attention in the media since his son went to prison nearly a decade ago for viciously beating a black teenager, who had the nerve to be in the Carusos' neighborhood.

But the elder Caruso's name is coming up in the Family Secrets trial.

Did the mobster get religion?

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Frank Calabrese Sr. apparently found religion while in prison.

Or at least found some messages in the Bible that spoke to him.

Take for instance, a conversation in 1999 he had with two allegedly crooked cops, Anthony "Twan" Doyle and Michael Ricci, who were trying to figure out how close the FBI was to linking a 1986 Outfit murder to Calabrese Sr.'s brother, hitman Nick Calabrese.

Know nothings

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Frank Calabrese Jr. secretly recorded conversations with a lot of people, including his father, Frank Sr.

He kept the reels running after he got out of prison with his father and taped people who worked for his father in a variety of illegal pursuits.

But he drew the line, at least initially, with his stepmother.


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It isn't all talk of bleeding fingers, burning saint cards and whacked stool pigeons when alleged Outfit hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. and his son, Frank Jr., get together for a secretly recorded chat.

In a conversation between father and son in February 1999, at a prison in Milan, Mich., the son breaks the tedium by apparently accusing the father of passing gas.

A most paranoid mobster and the trial's big mystery

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No matter what you think of Frank Calabrese Sr.'s guilt or innocence in the Family Secrets case, anyone who reads the transcripts of the secretly recorded conversations between Frank Sr. and his son cannot escape one conclusion.

Frank Calabrese Sr. is a seriously paranoid mobster.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas (unless you screw up)

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John Fecarotta was part of the hit team that was sent to Las Vegas in the mid-1980s to kill the Outfit's man in Las Vegas, Anthony Spilotro.

Spilotro was bringing heat to the mob's cash cow, and he had to go.

The Hatchet will see you now

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Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiaramonti

Donald "Captain D" DiFazio was already paying $500 a month in street tax on behalf of his boss, Jimmy Stolfe, a co-founder of Connie's Pizza, when DiFazio was asked to take a ride.

The overlooked killer?

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Ronald Jarrett

Ronald Jarrett's name hasn't come up much during testimony in the Family Secrets trial.

He died in 2000, gunned down in a mob hit outside his Bridgeport home. The hit was sanctioned by mob boss John "Johnny Apes" Monteleone, according to previous courtroom testimony.

But a close look at the prosecution's case shows he allegedly took part in at least nine Outfit murders with his friend Frank Calabrese Sr., who is accused of 13 mob hits in all.

Frank Calabrese Jr. hits the stand

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Frank Calabrese Jr. is battling multiple sclerosis and walked to the witness stand on Tuesday with a cane.

But even with the hitch in his step, he's still, at 47, a big guy, an intimidating presence.

Cooley gets the boot

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The most interesting people show up at the Family Secrets trial.

Robert Cooley, the lawyer who turned federal informant and took a huge bite out the Outfit's political power in the early 1990s, showed up Monday with a Hollywood producer to check out the scene.

Cooley apparently had no worries about showing his face.

But someone else did.

"Lombardo week" comes to an end

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Federal prosecutors spent their first full week of testimony aimed at nailing Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.

Prosecutors didn't offer a smoking gun. No witness said they saw Lombardo shoot Daniel Seifert in 1974. No DNA places him at the crime site.

Rather, prosecutors attempted to offer a cumulative case of circumstantial evidence against Lombardo.

A chilling Frank Schweihs

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The top five statements


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Every so often there are moments in the Family Secrets trial that even David Lynch or the Coen brothers couldn't dream up.

Take, for instance, a relatively minor witness called Marvin Lemke.

Lemke explained to jurors how he did two stretches in prison from 1956 to 1969, the first for armed robbery, the second for armed robbery and kidnapping.

But Lemke wasn’t there to discuss his time in the joint.

Limited choices

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Felix, Irwin or Joe

Detail work

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A small yet interesting moment in the case

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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