Ava Barcelona paid $205 for a framed photograph of former Cicero town president and ex-convictBetty Loren-Maltese on Friday and said she has just the perfect spot for it at her Chicago home.
"I'm going to hang it next to a photograph of Rod Blagojevich," said Barcelona, 51, who recently purchased an image of the convicted former Illinois governor at an auction. "I've always been intrigued with her politics. When I saw her on television, I thought she resembled Elizabeth Taylor. She always seemed so elegant to me."
Barcelona was one of hundreds of bargain hunters, memorabilia seekers and fans of Loren-Maltese who converged on a garage sale in west suburban Forest View to gobble up knickknacks and other assorted belongings that the former Cicero leader was on hand trying to unload.
Loren-Maltese, who spent seven years in federal custody for bilking Cicero residents of more than $12 million in a mob-related insurance scam, said she is in need of money for living expenses. She also still owes restitution to the federal government, which in July auctioned off her one-story brick house in Cicero for $87,000.
The government seized other possessions, as well, but much of what they didn't take was up for sale Friday at the home of a friend. There were earrings at $1.50 a pair, dozens and dozens of shoes, children's toys, blankets, blenders, a coffee machine, furniture, plenty of clown dolls and much more.
And if the buyer asked, Loren-Maltese willingly autographed the merchandise.
Jim Schamne, 55, of Chicago, purchased a clown doll and had Loren-Maltese sign it.
"I bought it because it (the clown) has Betty's eyelashes," said Schamne, laughing. "It's going to be a collectible."
Loren-Maltese wouldn't say how much money she was hauling in, but business was brisk, and she vowed there were more bargains to be had when the sale continued Saturday and Sunday at 4500 S. Grove Ave.
Loren-Maltese said she hopes to keep all the cash, but added she may have to turn over 20 percent of her earnings to the government. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office would not comment.
"The government took everything," Loren-Maltese said. "They left me homeless. I need to sell some of these items to survive."
Loren-Maltese currently rents a condominium in south suburban Palos Hills. She said her only job is computer work that she does from home. After being released from federal custody, she worked briefly as a hostess at a west suburban pizza restaurant.
Practicality at this stage of her life is more important than sentimentality.
"Some of these things are special to me," she said of the items for sale. "But I realize that they are just things. I was in prison for seven years and I didn't miss them. My friends and family come first."
Loren-Maltese, who served as town president for nine years, said she is still confident that she will clear her name.
In the meantime she is looking for a single man.
"I met some doozies on the (online) dating sites, let me tell you," Loren-Maltese joked.
Melrose Park resident Kathy Helsing, 50, said she came to the sale to help support Loren-Maltese. Some people were even contributing money beyond the purchase prices.
Helsing purchased two stuffed animals for her 11-year-old daughter.
"Being a woman, I can sympathize with Betty. I know she needs help," said Helsing. "It's also exciting to see her."