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Business people learn how they can help combat organized crime
By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff

FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth speaks about his involvement in the recent "Family Secrets" mob case Tuesday at the monthly breakfast meeting of the Schaumburg Business Association.

 

Daniel White | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/12/2008 12:23 PM

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Members of the Schaumburg Business Association today learned of the role businessmen and businesswomen just like themselves play in combating Chicago-area organized crime.

At its monthly breakfast meeting in Schaumburg, the group heard from an FBI agent and federal attorney involved in the investigation and prosecution at the recent "Family Secrets" mob trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully told the association that the Chicago Crime Commission was formed in 1919 out of the frustration legitimate businesses felt from the influence of organized crime.

Since 1919, there have been more than 1,000 gangland murders committed in the Chicago area, FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth said.

Though the Chicago Crime Commission has enjoyed many successes, only 14 of these gangland murders have ever ended in convictions, Maseth said.

The "Family Secrets" case brought about some of the most significant victories in the law's long battle with the mob, he added.

The five men found guilty last September were James Marcello of Chicago, Frank Calabrese Sr. of Oak Brook, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo of Chicago, Paul Schiro of Phoenix and Anthony "Twan" Doyle of Wickenburg, Ariz.

But one of the first challenges prosecutors faced, Scully said, was to prove the Chicago Outfit actually existed.

The mob's coded language and code of silence long prevented isolated arrests from doing any significant damage to overall operations.

"To be honest, for a while (former FBI director) J. Edgar Hoover wouldn't even acknowledge that there was a mob," Scully said.

The creation of racketeering charges - which target illegal business operations rather than traditional criminal acts like theft and murder - helped law enforcement widen its net.

But the key that helped unlock years of investigative work in Chicago and its suburbs was the offer of help the FBI received from Frank Calabrese Jr. in July 1998.

Maseth said Calabrese was willing to turn informant and spy on his father, Frank Calabrese Sr. - breaking a cardinal rule of the mob.

The younger Calabrese's change of heart came not from any sudden insight of right and wrong, but because his father had shoved a gun in his mouth after learning of his embezzlement of a million dollars of the outfit's money.

The significance of Calabrese's help was that it helped show evidence already collected in a new light.

"A lot of the indictments were based on work that had been done years and years before," Scully said.

One of the prominent pieces of evidence was a strange 1976 photo showing all of the mob's prominent figures together at a restaurant - the type of photo they'd all avoided before and after. It was conclusive proof that all knew each other well.

The younger Calabrese's help netted his brother, Nick Calabrese, who turned informant himself.

"Nick told us things we never dreamed we would hear," Maseth said. "He confessed to 15 murders."

"We really had no idea that Nick Calabrese was a killer," Scully added.

The two lawmen also detailed other aspects of the investigation, including the funding of Las Vegas casinos with money from the Teamsters' pension fund and the bombing of cars belonging to resistant extortion victims.

There were some aspects of the investigation they still couldn't talk about as the trial of one remaining suspect, Frank Schweis, is still coming up. Illness prevented Schweis from being tried with the rest.