In the Monday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times, we tell the story of how the FBI created such a paranoid atmosphere in the Chicago Outfit, many mobsters, including Frank Calabrese Sr., came to believe that fellow Outfit member and reputed killer James DiForti was a rat.
Outfit people on the street to this day believe DiForti was a snitch.
But he wasn't.
Here are some more details on how the FBI messed with the mob's mind, according to a review of court records in the Family Secrets case and an interview with Kevin Blair, an FBI agent who worked in Chicago and was an architect of the FBI's strategy.
Blair came up with the name for the investigation, Family Secrets, but he downplayed his own role and praised the job done by other agents who continued his original work on the case.
Here's how it went down.
In the 1990s, the FBI had two informants with ties to the Cicero crew.
The first was private investigator Sam Rovetuso, court records show. In 1998, the FBI had him falsely tell Michael Spano Sr., then the head of the Cicero crew, that an FBI agent had come to interview Rovetuso, but Rovetuso declined, telling the agent to speak to his attorney.
Rovetuso said his attorney sent him a letter with the topics that the FBI wanted to talk to him about.
The attorney was made up, and so was the letter, complete with a fake letterhead, created by the FBI.
Rovetuso showed the letter to Spano Sr., whose suspicions were aroused that there could be a snitch tied to the Cicero crew.
Rovetuso was wired up and recording Spano Sr.'s chatter about the possible rat and what he could tell the FBI. That recording and others led to his conviction and that of a crooked Cicero police chief in an unrelated case.
The second informant, who has not been identified publicly, had a long relationship with the Cicero crew and had provided them accurate information for years about law enforcement.
That's because the second informant had a relationship with one of most crooked cops in the history of Chicago, William Hanhardt. Hanhardt was chief of detectives, but he was also in the mob's pocket, according to testimony at the Famly Secrets trial.
Hanhardt was convicted in a separate case for running a multimillion dollar jewelry theft ring.
By passing along information from Hanhardt over the years, the second informant had credibility within the Cicero crew.
So when the FBI started having that informant feed misinformation into the crew, it was accepted at face value.
The informant told the crew he had somebody working within the FBI offices but wasn't any more specific.
The informant lied to the crew that he had learned from his source that the FBI had a mob snitch.
Word soon spread, and that ramped up the Outfit's paranoia.
The FBI bolstered the informant's credibility even further by giving him vague, relatively useless information to spread to the crew.
For instance, when FBI agents were serving subpoenas in Cicero as part of an investigation, the FBI would tell the informant that general fact. The informant would pass the intelligence along to the Cicero crew, who would eat it up.
When a mob indictment was coming down, the informant would be told to pass along the fact that something big was going to happen. Nothing more than that, just that something big was going to happen.
Again, the crew feasted on what appeared to them to be valuable insider information.
As this was going on, the Outfit's suspicions began centering on one man, James DiForti.
DiForti had been charged in 1997 with gunning down a man who owed him money but hadn't gone to trial in two years.
The delay raised the eyebrows of mobsters.
Then the FBI pulled another trick. Two agents went to Michael Ricci, a crooked cop, who was secretly meeting with Calabrese Sr. in prison to provide him whatever inside law enforcement information he could glean.
For years, Ricci was a Chicago police officer but at the time in 1999, he was working for the Cook County sheriff's department.
The agents who visited Ricci at the sheriff's office dropped DiForti's name in such a way to show they had an interest in him.
Ricci quickly reported this to Calabrese Sr., during one of the several prison visits that Ricci made to see his old friend.
This intrigued Calabrese Sr. even further.
In the end, Calabrese Sr. became so obsessed with DiForti that FBI agents had to warn him that his life could be in danger. They also wanted to see if they could flip him.
DiForti, though, shut the door in their faces.