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

March 2009 Archives

The federal court of appeals in Chicago on Friday denied an appeal for bond by reputed Outlaws motorcycle gang treasurer and trusted Outfit associate Mark Polchan.

Polchan is accused of taking part in the bombing of a Berwyn business that had a run-in with the Outfit.

Polchan says he's innocent and argued he did not represent a danger to the community, as prosecutors contended.

The prosecution asked that Nick Calabrese be given a break at sentencing but did not specify a punishment.

Federal prosecutor Markus Funk notes that Calabrese is a paradox.

"On the one hand, he's a cold-blooded killer who operates in an almost robotic fashion," Funk says.

While without question he committed terrible deeds, Calabrese never selected a person to be killed, never got a big payday afterward and never was the guy celebrating later at a bar or a casino, Funk says.

Calabrese did what he was told to do.

He's an introverted man, mild mannered, unassuming, a family man.

Since he started cooperating in January 2002, he has had hundreds of meetings with the government and thousands of hours of interviews.

In addition to the 14 murders, Calabrese confessed to, he told prosecutors about:

--22 other additional mob murders he knew about
--4 attempted murders
--5 bombings
--2 extortions
--60 names of made men in the Outfit

Calabrese "showed us the underbelly of Chicago," Funk said.

Without his testimony, the five defendants in the Family Secrets case would not have been convicted, much less indicted.

Judge Zagel's courtroom is packed.

Roughly two dozen family members of Nick Calabrese's victims.

Nearly a whole row filled by Nick Calabrese's family.

Nick Calabrese wears a baggy gray sweatshirt and blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up.

Security is tight.

Prolific Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese got a break in federal court Thursday afternoon after U.S. District Judge James Zagel gave him a prison sentence of a little more than 12 years.

Since he's already served 6 years, with his credit for good time, Calabrese will serve a little more than 4 years more before he can be released.

Zagel noted that leniency was required to get other people to come forward in the future and give the kind of extraordinary cooperation that Nick Calabrese did.

Family members of Calabrese victims, though, were outraged, for the most part.

Federal authorities are investigating several Cicero police officers for allegedly trying to thwart FBI agents running surveillance on an Outfit associate and high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang who ran a pawn shop in town, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Cicero police allegedly ran car license plates, pulled over cars they suspected were driven by federal agents and tried to find hidden surveillance cameras around the business of Mark Polchan, according to recently unsealed court records. Polchan is awaiting trial on charges he bombed a business for the Outfit.

Cicero officers and Polchan also are accused by prosecutors of engaging in sexual acts with prostitutes in Polchan's business, called Goldberg's, which was under video and audio surveillance by federal authorities. Prosecutors brought the matter up to counter Polchan's claim that he is a good family man.

The Cicero police officers under investigation are not named in the court documents.

In one secretly recorded conversation between Polchan and one of the officers in 2007, the officer is quoting telling him, "Alright, I got good news. We ran all the f - - - - - - plates on all the f - - - - - - cars over here. They all came back to f - - - - - - people," meaning not federal agents.

At a court hearing sealed to the public, Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk called the police running the license plates to see if they were federal agents "extraordinary," according to a transcript. Prosecutors had no comment Tuesday.

Cicero Town spokesman Dan Proft said the police superintendent was unaware of the allegations against his officers. The town will review them and likely refer them to the police department's internal affairs division, Proft said.

FBI agents interviewed three Cicero police officers in late summer or early autumn last year to question them because they had known Polchan for years, Proft said, but agents told the police superintendent they were not targets. Polchan apparently has deep ties with the Cicero Police Department, where his father was an officer.

Federal authorities have said more people will be charged in the Polchan case.

Prosecutors have alleged Polchan rang a burglary ring out of his shop and did frequent business with the Outfit, including overseeing a 2003 bombing of a Berwyn business that ran afoul of the mob.

Polchan's attorney could not be reached for comment. The documents came to light as Polchan appeals a judge's decision to have him held without bond.

For months, Michael Marcello passed along key information about a top mob snitch during his 2003 prison visits to his half-brother, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello -- the Chicago Outfit's top boss.

The details about the key witness, mob killer Nicholas Calabrese, were allegedly coming from the man assigned to protect Calabrese from the mobsters who wanted him dead -- deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose.

Now, in a stunning reversal, Michael Marcello, once his imprisoned half-brother's eyes and ears on the street, will testify against Ambrose next month, a prosecution filing shows.

Ambrose is charged with leaking important information about Nick Calabrese to the Outfit. Marcello could provide key testimony about how the information allegedly made its way from Ambrose to Ambrose's friend with Outfit connections to reputed mobster John "Pudgy" Matassa to Michael Marcello to James Marcello. Matassa has not been charged
in the case.

Michael Marcello pleaded guilty in the Family Secrets case in June 2007, admitting he ran an illegal video-poker business.

He didn't agree to cooperate then and got 8 1/2 years in prison.

It's unclear what prompted the turnaround. Prosecutors would not comment, and an attorney for Marcello did not return a message. Such cooperation often results in less prison time.

Prosecutors secretly recorded Michael Marcello's conversations when he visited James Marcello in prison.

The Marcellos were intent on finding out what Nick Calabrese had revealed about James Marcello's involvement in the 1986 killings of mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

James Marcello drove the Spilotros to a Bensenville area home, where the two men believed they were going to get promotions in the mob, according to testimony in the Family Secrets case. Instead, several mobsters, including Nick Calabrese, pounced on them and beat them to death.

Read Nick Calabrese attorney's plea for mercy after the jump.

Nick Calabrese

The attorney for prolific mob killer Nicholas Calabrese is asking a federal judge for a substantial reduction in his prison sentence given Calabrese's "extraordinary" cooperation in the historic Family Secrets mob case.

The lawyer, John Theis, did ask not U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel for a specific prison sentence for Calabrese, who killed more than a dozen people for the Chicago Outfit, including taking part in the 1986 murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro in the basement of a Bensenville area home.

Calabrese was the star witness in the Family Secrets case, helping put behind bars his own brother, mob killer, Frank Calabrese Sr., along with Outfit chief James Marcello and top Outfit leader Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.

Theis argues that Nick Calabrese was the first made man of the Chicago mob to cooperate and testify at a federal trial and notes that a lengthy sentence for his client, who is 67, would effectively be a death sentence.

Theis argues that Calabrese's cooperation did much to undermine the operation of the Outfit and "almost certainly saved the lives of others."

Calabrese began cooperating with the government after they tied him to a mob murder through blood evidence, but his attorney argues that Calabrese's decision was influenced by other factors.

His attorney writes that Calabrese's decision to cooperate "was the result of a much more complex and difficult process, beginning with the many years of anguish with which he lived, fearful of his own safety as well as that of his family, and unable to find the courage to extricate himself from the criminal activity in which he had so long participated."

At trial, Nick Calabrese testified that he feared his brother, Frank Sr., would kill if he didn't complete the mob hits they often did together.

Theis noted that by asking for a break Nick Calabrese's request "is meant in no way to diminish his complete remorse and contrition for the pain and sorrow which he has caused many individuals and their families."

Calabrese is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Chicago.

Crooked former Chicago cop Anthony "Twan" Doyle could face roughly 15 years in prison when he is sentenced Thursday in federal court.

In recent days, Doyle's attorney has asked for a delay in sentencing, so Doyle could be examined for possible psychiatric problems, but the judge has refused the request.

The sentencing hearing, which will take place at 2 p.m., could be fascinating as Doyle's attorney, the ever colorful Ralph Meczyk, faces off against federal prosecutor Markus Funk.

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