Convicted mob thief Paul "the Indian" Schiro was like a sleeper agent, a federal judge said Monday, an Outfit associate who did little but lie in wait for years before suddenly getting an order to do something horrible.
When the direction came, it was to help a team of hit men kill his good friend Emil Vaci, and Schiro coldly did as he was told."There was no evidence of his hesitation," U.S. District Judge James Zagel said.
Zagel sentenced Schiro on Monday to 20 years in prison, making him the first defendant in the landmark Family Secrets mob conspiracy case to learn his fate.
A veritable who's who of the Chicago Outfit -- mob bosses James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr. -- are scheduled to be sentenced within days.
A federal jury convicted Schiro of racketeering conspiracy in the Family Secrets trial in 2007 but was unable to unanimously agree on whether he was responsible for Vaci's murder in Arizona in 1986.
Zagel found that Schiro was involved in the killing by a preponderance of the evidence, making him eligible for the 20 years, the most he could face on the racketeering count.
Schiro told the judge he had no idea why the jury found him guilty in the conspiracy.
"I went to trial with co-defendants I never met in my life," said Schiro, 71.
Family Secrets marked Schiro's second conviction in a major Outfit case in the last decade. He was convicted in 2001for his role in the mob-connected jewelry theft ring headed by William Hanhardt, a former Chicago police chief of detectives, and sentenced to 51/2 years in prison.
Marcello, Lombardo and Calabrese are all eligible for life terms. The jury convicted them in a conspiracy stretching back to the 1960s, linking them to numerous gangland slayings.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk argued that it would be "utterly inappropriate" for Schiro to be sentenced to anything but the maximum. He was a career criminal and Outfit associate who helped on surveillance of Vaci.
"He knew his friend would be killed that day," Funk said.
Outfit turncoat Nicholas Calabrese, the government's star witness at the trial, said Vaci was killed to silence him from talking to a grand jury about the disappearance of a man tied to an enormous mob skimming operation at a Las Vegas casino. Calabrese testified that he pulled Vaci into a van and shot him in the head.
Schiro's lawyer, Paul Wagner, sought a sentence below the maximum, saying Schiro hoped to see his grandchildren someday. He argued that the jury didn't believe Calabrese, calling the admitted multiple murderer "the worst of the worst becoming the best friend of the government."
The night of his death, Vaci called home as he always did to say he was leaving work, according to a written statement from Drena Garrison, his stepdaughter. Hours later, his family learned that his body had been discovered wrapped in plastic and dumped in a dry gully "like garbage," Garrison said.
Vaci and her mother were planning to renew their wedding vows within weeks, Garrison said, and Vaci had picked out a new suit for the occasion. Instead, he was buried in the suit, she said.
Mob case's 1st sentence: 20 years for racketeering
Other Family Secrets defendants, including Lombardo, also learn fates in coming days
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