February 21, 2003
Until recently, the bosses of the Chicago Outfit felt relatively safe, with their connections in politics and local law enforcement.
But now, they're on the verge of FBI-inspired paranoia.They're not concerned where fellow mob boss Joey "The Clown" Lombardo is hiding these days. There's a good reason for The Clown to keep a low profile:
Formerly imprisoned mob loan shark and enforcer Nick Calabrese is talking to the FBI, sources said.
Investigators are being given a road map through crime and time, including unsolved Outfit murders going back over decades.
FBI agents have spread out across the country armed with search warrants to collect DNA evidence, hair cuttings and oral swabs, from dozens of Outfit bigwigs. Sources familiar with the investigation said search warrants for the mob DNA have been sealed.
This must aggravate some folks, including imprisoned Chicago street boss Jimmy Marcello, convicted of bookmaking and loan sharking. Marcello hopes to be released from a 12-year federal prison term in a few months.
Marcello, Calabrese and Calabrese's brother, Frank, a convicted loan shark, spent years together inside. When old friends talk in prison, they reminisce about dis and dat and dat other ting, don't they?
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said Thursday that Nick Calabrese's federal prison records had disappeared. My highly educated guess is that he is now in the witness protection program.
"No comment," said the U.S. attorney's office. "No comment," said the Chicago FBI.
Some of the victims of unsolved Outfit hits being discussed with FBI agents might be familiar to you.
They include Anthony and Michael Spilotro, the vicious gangster brothers beaten to death and dumped in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. If you saw the movie "Casino," you know how it happened. Joe Pesci, one of my favorite actors, played Tony.
And if you're a faithful reader of this column, you know why the Spilotros were available to be murdered. A few weeks earlier, they beat a federal criminal case against them in Las Vegas.
The key federal witness against them had his testimony undercut by a then-heroic former Chicago police chief of detectives, William Hanhardt.
Hanhardt's surprise testimony as a top cop and defense witness undercut the credibility of hit man-turned-government informant Frank Cullotta. (Frankie got a bit part in "Casino," too, as a hit man).
During the Spilotro trial, Hanhardt was a hero cop, with friends in the newspapers and in Hollywood, where he was glorified in the TV show "Crime Story."
Now, though, Hanhardt is serving a long federal prison term for running an Outfit-sponsored jewelry theft ring. Still, Hollywood may make a movie about him.
But nobody made a movie about hit man John Fecoratta.
He was killed outside Brown's bingo parlor on Belmont Avenue three months to the day after the Spilotros' bodies were found.
The Spilotros weren't supposed to be found. Federal investigators figured Fecoratta was punished for botching the planting of the Spilotros.
Outfit enforcer Billy Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, left a Will County courtroom in 1980. They were hacked to pieces by shotgun blasts during a high-speed chase along a lonely country road.
Daniel Siefert was murdered in front of his family at his plastics manufacturing plant in 1974.
Siefert was a key government witness in a federal case against Lombardo, in connection with a scheme that bilked the Teamsters Union pension fund out of millions of dollars.
Siefert was with his wife and 4-year-old son when the Outfit came for him. He ran a short distance after the first shot, but it knocked him down.
A gunman walked up to the fallen Siefert, pressed a shotgun against his head, pulled the trigger.
Lombardo and six others were acquitted two months after Siefert's murder.
Nick Calabrese is not as flashy and as loud as his brother, Frank. Nick is quiet. He was to be released this year.
Then a strange thing happened. His prison records disappeared. They don't exist, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Carla Wilson, a bureau spokeswoman, was helpful Thursday in finding Frank Calabrese, and prison records on his sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt.
But no Uncle Nick.
"If he were in the witness protection program, then we would not be able to access that information," she said. Then she said she had to check something and later had a different story about Uncle Nick's vanished records.
"I really can't speculate about that," she said. "All I can tell you is that I don't have any public information on him."
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