Everyday businesspeople have a role to play in combating organized crime, two federal agents told members of the Schaumburg Business Association Tuesday.
An FBI agent and federal attorney spoke about their involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the "Family Secrets" mob trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully said the Chicago Crime Commission was formed in 1919 out of the frustration legitimate businesses felt from the influence of organized crime.
Since then, more than 1,000 gangland murders have been committed in the Chicago area, FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth said.
Despite's the commission's many successes, only 14 of those killings resulted in convictions, he 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 in September in that case 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.
Among prosecutors' first challenges, Scully said, was proving 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 -- they target illegal business operations rather than traditional criminal acts like theft and murder -- helped law enforcement widen its net.
But what helped unlock years of investigative work in the Chicago area was the 1998 offer of help from Frank Calabrese Jr.
He became an informant and spied on his father -- breaking a cardinal rule of the mob, Maseth said.
The younger Calabrese's change of heart came not from any sudden insight of right and wrong, but because he says his father had shoved a gun in his mouth after learning he'd embezzled $1 million of the outfit's money.
His assistance helped show existing evidence in a new light.
"A lot of the indictments were based on work that had been done years and years before," Scully said.
One prominent piece 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 probe, like the funding of Las Vegas casinos with Teamsters' pension funds and the bombing of cars belonging to resistant extortion victims.
There were some aspects of the investigation the speakers couldn't discuss as the trial of one remaining suspect, Frank Schweis, is pending. Illness prevented Schweis from being tried with the rest.