Reputed Cicero mob boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno took a big fall Wednesday after he was convicted in federal court of a racketeering conspiracy charge that could put him behind bars for 25 years.
"God!" Sarno's wife, Nicole, yelled out in the courtroom as a federal judge agreed to a prosecutor's request that the mobster, out on bond, should be taken into custody immediately, just three days before Christmas. His daughter, Angelica, a college student who attended many days of the trial, broke down, sobbing loudly.
Sarno, 52, was convicted along with his friend, Outlaw motorcycle gang member Mark Polchan, 43, as well as the video poker king of the Chicago area, Casey Szaflarski, 52, mob bomber Sam Volpendesto, 86, and his son, Anthony, 48, a prolific thief.
The centerpiece of the case was the bombing in 2003 of a storefront in Berwyn, targeting a businessman competing with Sarno in the video poker business. No one was hurt in the pipe bomb blast, but it gutted the building.
Authorities say the case showed the Chicago Outfit outsourcing some of its dirty work -- the bombing of a competitor and the later intimidation of a witness -- to a motorcycle gang during a time when the Outfit was under keen pressure from the historic Family Secrets mob investigation.
Over a six-week trial, federal prosecutors Amarjeet Bhachu, Tinos Diamantatos and Michael Donovan called more than 80 witnesses, played more than 70 audio or video recordings and entered more than 300 exhibits into evidence to show a wide-ranging conspiracy, that included a slew of home robberies and jewelry store burglaries, that was investigated by the FBI, ATF and IRS.
The jury's decision marks the third conviction for Sarno in an organized crime case. Sarno started his career in organized crime at 17 as an enforcer. Working his way up the ranks, Sarno -- about 6-foot-3 and topping 300 pounds at his heaviest -- has never been known as the brains of the mob but rather as a tough guy willing to inspire fear and snatch someone else's profitable scheme. While Sarno oversaw the criminal group, he likely won't face the most time in prison when the men are sentenced in May.
Polchan and Sam Volpendesto were convicted with taking part in the bombing of the Berwyn business and face mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years behind bars for that crime alone. Each man could be sentenced to more than 50 years behind bars -- a death sentence for Sam Volpendesto.