Mobster gets 12 years for ordering hit during grandma’s funeral

By Selim Algar

A Colombo crime family capo was sentenced to 12 years in prison Thursday for ordering a hit on a rival gangster — from his own grandmother’s wake.
Theodore “Skinny Teddy” Persico Jr. — nephew of notorious Colombo boss Carmine “The Snake” Persico — whispered his lethal order to Mafia soldiers at the Brooklyn wake in 1993. He had been let out of jail on furlough to pay his respects.
“You’ve got to kill Joey,” Persico (pictured) whispered to three Colombo cohorts at the wake, held at Scarpaci Funeral Home in Dyker Heights in August 1993, one of the mobsters, Anthony “Big Anthony” Russo, testified in 2012 against another of the soldiers, B.F. Guerra.
A handcuffed Persico — who was referring to renegade Colombo gangster Joseph “Joey” Scopo — ordered the hit as he sat in a room with both his grandmother’s body and three state jail guards who’d transported him from an upstate prison, Russo had said.
The brazen command led to Scopo’s assassination in front of his Queens home months later.
A seething Persico wanted Scopo dead because he had sided with a rival of his powerful uncle during a bloody struggle for family supremacy that raged throughout much of the 1990s.
Scopo aligned himself with then-acting boss Victor “Little Vic” Orena, who challenged Carmine Persico’s command.
In a surprise verdict, Guerra was acquitted of the Scopo killing, but was jailed last year for a slew of other mob-related activity.
Persico pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy and extortion raps in exchange for the 12-year sentence on the Scopo hit.
Noting the relatively light sentence for a murder, Brooklyn federal Judge Sandra Townes told Persico he was fortunate to have such a skillful lawyer in Elizabeth Macedonio who negotiated the deal with prosecutors.
Persico nodded in agreement.
Before his prearranged sentence was handed down, Persico, 50, told Townes he has abandoned his life of crime.
“I want to assure you and promise you that I won’t be here again,” Persico muttered.
The vow came despite speculation he could be next in line to replace his jailed uncle as Colombo boss.
Carmine Persico, 70, is serving life for murder and racketeering.

Company with mob ties helping with District 64 renovations

Jennifer Johnson

A company with alleged ties to Chicago organized crime has been brought on as a subcontractor for a Park Ridge elementary school construction project.
A green dumpster belonging to D&P Construction recently appeared outside Field School, 707 Wisner St., ahead of an air conditioning, heating and ventilation project slated to occur this summer.
Scott Mackall, Director of Facility Management for Park Ridge-Niles School District 64, said he was told D&P is providing only the dumpster for the project and was subcontracted by Palatine-based Bergen Construction Corporation, which is the company performing the bulk of the work.
“We’re writing [Bergen] the checks,” Mackall said.
The Better Government Association reported in 2012 that the FBI believes D&P Construction is run by two brothers with Chicago mob connections: Peter DiFronzo and John “No Nose” DiFronzo. During the 2007 “Family Secrets” mob trial in Chicago, the BGA said John DiFronzo was implicated in the murders of two mob brothers, but was not charged with a crime.
According to a 2008 report by the BGA and the Chicago Sun-Times, D&P “was the focus of a Gaming Board disciplinary case that stopped Emerald Casino Inc. from building a floating gambling barge in Rosemont in 2001.” The report also stated that the Gaming Board “linked D&P to individuals who have been identified as known members of organized crime.”
D&P Construction has been used on projects for a number of Chicago Public Schools, according to a 2011 investigation by the BGA and Fox 32.
Mackall said he was unaware of the allegations of mob ties and D&P Construction.
“I’ve never heard that at all,” he said.
A representative from Bergen Construction could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Field School construction project, slated to be complete by Aug. 8, will install air conditioning in the school, in addition to heating and ventilation upgrades and asbestos abatement. Field is the last of the District 64 schools to receive air conditioning.
The project, said Mackall, came in under budget at $4.5 million. The contract awarded in February identified the total cost at $5.33 million.
“The bids came in very competitive. They were quite a bit lower than we anticipated,” Mackall said.
Other building projects slated to occur around the district this summer include security upgrades at each school building costing a total of $337,425. The upgrades consist of security cameras on school property, changes in door access and a system that will run the driver’s licenses or state IDs of building visitors through a registered sex offender database.
Tags: D&P Construction, District 64, Field School, Park Ridge-Niles School District 64

Mob soldier gets 2-plus years for gambling

By Jeremy Roebuck 

A Philadelphia mob soldier convicted this year of running an illegal gambling business that funneled proceeds to La Cosa Nostra was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in federal prison.
Eric Esposito, 43, was sentenced to 27 months, the maximum term suggested under federal sentencing guidelines. Still, the sentence U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno imposed was below the more than three years prosecutors had asked for, saying Esposito had flouted the law.
At trial in February, prosecutors alleged Esposito ran the First Ward Republican Club, an after-hours South Philadelphia bar that had little to do with politics but that became a frequent hangout for mobsters and their associates.
Also there, according to FBI investigators, were the type of video poker machines that have become a staple of mob operations in the city, and plenty of bartenders coached to distribute illegal payouts.
Esposito has denied he was anything more than a bar employee. Prosecutors maintain that from at least 2006 to 2009, he served as its de facto manager - even as he was serving a period of court-ordered supervision after his release from prison on a drug conviction.
It was also during that period, prosecutor John S. Han said in court filings, that Esposito took a blood oath and became a made member of the Philadelphia mob.
"Esposito has established a complete lack of rehabilitative potential and he has amply earned just punishment through further incarceration," Han wrote.
Esposito was caught in the same 2009 dragnet that landed reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi, his nephew George Borgesi, and several other alleged mob associates and soldiers in court.
Last year, a federal jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on several charges against Ligambi, including allegations that he oversaw a small gambling empire consisting of illegal gambling machines at bars and bodegas across South Philadelphia.
The Justice Department ultimately decided not to try Ligambi again.
Esposito took his case before a jury in February, well after outcomes had been settled for many of his mob colleagues.
His sentencing Wednesday makes him the 13th mob leader, member, or associate convicted in the case.

Al Capone’s ‘lemon squeezer’ up for auction

Max Slowik

Capone, his gun, and his Social Security card.

“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone,” once said prohibition-era gangster Al Capone.
Heritage Auctions has just listed a very special Harrington & Richardson top-break revolver that once belonged to none other than Al Capone. While he’s more frequently remembered for his hat and cigar, there’s little doubt that he knew his way around guns, too.
The revolver is a Harrington & Richardson Second Model chambered for .38 S&W with a 3 1/2-inch barrel. These were popular pistols at the time and H&R made them by the truckload. They can still be found today, usually for less than $200.
Of course, Capone’s Second Model is expected to fetch a higher price. The opening bid is $7,500 and the auction house predicts the gun will sell for $15,000 to $20,000.
The estimate may be on the conservative side. Capone’s property, especially his guns, are hard to come by. Combined with his legendary notoriety, Capone’s guns fetch high prices at auction.
Capone rose to a position of fame as a bootlegger, along with his syndicate, the Chicago outfit, which eventually became known as “The Capones.” Running underground alcohol during the Prohibition in Illinois was widely held to be a public service, although his reputation sank after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was a gang-related shooting that lead to the ascension of the South Side Italian Gang over the North Side Irish Gang in Chicago in 1929. The massacre allowed the Capones to take over control of the city’s organized crime but cost Capone himself his reputation as a then-modern-day Robin Hood.
A Colt Police Positive .38 Special that once belonged to Capone sold for more than $100,000 just a few years ago at Christie’s.
Even though the Colt was a higher-quality piece in better condition, it’s the fact that this was Capone’s pocket gun that will move people to bid.
The gun is not in bad condition, either, not by a long shot. While the finish has flaws and there is some rusting and pitting on the bore, these were not heirloom guns in the first place. This particular Second Model is in excellent condition by H&R standard given its age. Most of these revolvers show many more signs of aging.
Judging by the serial number the gun was made somewhere between 1913 and 1915. It comes with a letter from Madeleine Capone Morichetti that states it belonged to Al Capone.
While .38 Smith & Wesson isn’t a common caliber today, it can still be found and loaded for, and it is a low-pressure round that isn’t going to put much if any appreciable wear on the gun.  This is one historical piece that is on the cusp of shootability, if anyone were to do so.
If you’re interested in placing a bid or just looking at a piece of history head over to the auction page, there are more details and high-resolution photos available.

Bang! Your dead.

I-Team: Jimmy Hoffa's name appears in FBI file on Chicago mob boss Frank 'The Breeze' Calabrese

By Chuck Goudie, Ann Pistone, Barb Markoff, Ross Weidner and Christine Tressel


The I-Team has an exclusive report on the FBI file on Chicago mob boss Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese. He died in prison on Christmas Day 2012.
One of the most mysterious names in U.S. criminal history, Jimmy Hoffa, pops up in the FBI file of one of the most notorious names in gangland Chicago, the late Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese. There is no suggestion that the former Teamsters union leader was one of Calabrese's many murder victims, but the mere mention of Hoffa's name is always news. And Thursday, in a 600-page file that was largely whited out by the FBI, Hoffa's name is the only news.
Jimmy Hoffa's middle name is Riddle, his mother's maiden name. The insertion of Hoffa's name into the FBI file of Chicago outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. is just that: a riddle. Or at least another mystery in a case that has come to be one of the nation's oldest crime puzzles: what happened to Jimmy Hoffa?
The powerful Teamsters union boss vanished from the parking lot of a suburban Detroit restaurant nearly 39 years ago. His body never found, no one ever prosecuted, the details never certain.
Federal law enforcement officers concluded long ago that the Chicago outfit had a hand in Hoffa's disappearance, based on witness interviews and a slim trail of evidence. Oddly, Hoffa's name is one of the few names not redacted by the Justice Department in the Calabrese file that features hundreds of partially or totally whited out pages.
Calabrese's FBI file doesn't pin Hoffa's presumed murder on Calabrese, but the fact that there is any reference to him whatsoever only deepens the mystery of what happened to Hoffa.
One reference to Hoffa concerns a meeting that may have taken place in Missouri the week that Hoffa vanished, noted in Calabrese's federal file as part of the "Hoffex" investigation which was the bureau's codename for its probe.
The other mention of Hoffa and Calabrese is from a 1973 FBI report, two years before the teamsters boss was last seen alive. That section of the file describes a $900,000 loan from Hoffa's union pension fund to a company controlled by Chicago "hoodlum figures."
Hoffa had relationships with numerous top hoodlums in Chicago, but the Calabrese file doesn't make it clear whether he was one of them, or why. Calabrese was a juice loan operator who rose through the ranks to outfit boss and became known for his unforgiving, hands-on approach to addressing mob misbehavior -- usually by throttling victims, strangling them, shooting them, or all three.

Edison man facing prison time for extortion from dock workers

EDISON — A former longshoreman from the township and two cohorts have admitted to conspiracy to extort money from union members.
Salvatore LaGrasso, 58, of Edison; Michael Nicolosi, 45, of Staten Island, N.Y.; and Julio Porrao, 71, of Palm Coast, Fla., all former supervisors of the New Jersey piers, pleaded guilty May 22 to having extorted others in Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) for Christmastime tribute payments, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Eastern District of New York U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.
As LaGrasso, Nicolosi and Porrao entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court, the men acknowledged conspiring with one another and others to compel tribute payments from ILA union members who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear, according to authorities.
The timing of the extortions typically coincided with the receipt by certain ILA members of Container Royalty Fund checks, a form of year-end compensation.
LaGrasso and Nicolosi were suspended from their positions after their arrests in this case. Porrao had already retired from his employment on the New Jersey piers at the time of his arrest, authorities said.
Charges are still pending against five defendants in the superseding indictment, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth, a soldier in the Genovese organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra, according to authorities. Since at least 2005, Depiro has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront, including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in ILA Local 1, ILA Local 1235 and ILA Local 1478, authorities said.
Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tributes from New Jersey port workers at Christmastime each year through their influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235, authorities said.
LaGrasso, Nicolosi, and Porrao face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge, to which they pleaded guilty. Sentencing for LaGrasso and Nicolosi is set for Sept. 17, and Porrao is to be sentenced Sept. 24.

Gambino Family Administration Member Bartolomeo Vernace Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

Defendant Sentenced for His Role in a Racketeering Conspiracy, Including a 1981 Double Homicide of Two Queens Bar Owners Over a Spilled Drink

U.S. Attorney’s Office May 27, 2014         •           Eastern District of New York (718) 254-7000

Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Bartolomeo Vernace, a member of the administration of the Gambino organized crime family of La Cosa Nostra (the Gambino family), was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, plus 10 years. On April 17, 2013, following a five-week jury trial before the Hon. Sandra L. Townes, Vernace was found guilty of a racketeering conspiracy spanning 1978 through 2011. The jury found that Vernace participated in all nine racketeering acts alleged as part of the conspiracy, including the 1981 double homicide of Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese, heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, and illegal gambling.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
“For more than four decades, the defendant dedicated his life to committing crimes for the mafia. He rose through the ranks to become a powerful Gambino family leader by making money from crime and committing brutal acts of violence, including the 1981 murders of two innocent bar owners over a spilled drink. Though they were taken from their families long ago, Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese—two businessmen who also ran the local Boys’ Club—have not been forgotten,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We hope the victims’ families are able to take some measure of comfort from the fact that, with this life sentence, one of the killers has now been brought to justice.” Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the FBI, the agency that led the government’s investigation.
“After more than 33 years evading justice, Bartolomeo ‘Bobby Glasses’ Vernace can hide no more. Vernace made a life of being a key player in the Gambino crime family where his activities led to his convictions for heroin trafficking, robbery, loansharking, gambling, and firearms, as well the vicious double murder. Today’s life sentence ensures the rest of Bobby Glasses’s life will only be seen inside of a federal facility,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.
The evidence at trial established that Vernace, known by various aliases including “Bobby Glasses,” had a long career in the mafia that began in the early 1970s and culminated in his rise to the rank of a captain who served on the three-member ruling panel overseeing the Gambino family. Vernace was arrested on January 20, 2011, as part of a national sweep of almost 100 members and associates of organized crime led by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Among the crimes he committed for the mafia, Vernace, together with two Gambino family associates, murdered Richard Godkin and John D’Agnese in the Shamrock Bar in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens on April 11, 1981, after a dispute arose between a Gambino family associate and others in the bar over a spilled drink. The associate left the bar and picked up Vernace and a third accomplice at a nearby social club. A short time later, the three men entered the bar and gunned down Godkin and D’Agnese—the owners of the bar—as the bar’s patrons fled for cover.
In the weeks after the murders, Vernace went into hiding. He did not reemerge until years later when, having successfully avoided state charges for the murders, Vernace returned to Queens and to an active role in the Gambino family. Over the next two decades, his power within the mafia grew, as he operated a large and profitable crew from a café on Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.
In 1998, Vernace was charged in Queens County Supreme Court with the Godkin and D’Agnese murders but was acquitted after trial in 2002. During testimony in the federal trial in 2013, an eyewitness to the murders testified that he had lied during the state trial about Vernace’s role in the murders out of fear of retribution. The eyewitness testified in the federal case that he recognized all three assailants but that he had been afraid to testify against them because, in his words, “two men were dead over a spilled drink. I think that was reason enough to be afraid.”
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Evan M. Norris, Amir H. Toossi, M. Kristin Mace, and Claire S. Kedeshian.

Defendant:Bartolomeo Vernace
Age: 65

Former longshoreman from Lakewood guilty of extortion

Stephanie Loder

NEWARK – Rocco Ferrandino, 71, of Lakewood was one of two former longshoremen who admitted Wednesday that they conspired to extort Christmas tribute payments from their brethren in Local 1 and Local 1235 of the International Longshoremen’s Association, according to the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
An associate of the Genovese organized crime family charged in the same case admitted to running an illegal sports-betting operation, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
During their guilty pleas, Ferrandino and Michael Trueba, 78, of Kearny — both former supervisors on the New Jersey piers — admitted they conspired with each other and others to compel tribute payments from union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear, according to case documents and court statements.
The timing of the extortion typically coincided with certain union members getting “container royalty fund” checks, prosecutors said. Ferrandino, the former head timekeeper at Maher Terminals, and Trueba, the former vice president of Local 1235, were suspended from their positions following their arrests, according to court documents.
Richard Dehmer, 78, of Springfield, an associate of the Genovese organized crime family, also pleaded guilty to conspiring to operate and operating an illegal sports betting operation with others. Ferrandino, Trueba and Dehmer entered guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in federal court in Newark.
Charges still are pending against three defendants in the superseding indictment, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth, a soldier in the Genovese family. Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers at Christmastime each year through their corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235, court documents said.
The charge to which Ferrandino and Trueba pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges to which Dehmer pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23, 24 and 30, for Dehmer, Ferrandino and Trueba, respectively, Fishman said.

Crime boss: Several buyers of illegal drugs are in showbiz

The drug-related arrest of singer-songwriter Aska shocked fans in Japan and across East Asia, but the leader of a yakuza organization says stimulant use is nothing new in the world of show business.
The crime gang, based in the northern Kanto region, deals in stimulants, and its regular customers include several people from the entertainment industry, he said.
“Our group is known for dealing in drugs, so show-folk would come to know us by word of mouth and approach,” the mob boss said. He said the gang receives drug orders from either the entertainers themselves or their managers and acquaintances.
Aska, 56, half of the music duo Chage and Aska and one of Japan’s biggest pop stars in the 1990s, was arrested on May 17 on suspicion of possessing stimulant drugs.
Police said they also found about 90 tablets of MDMA, more popularly known as Ecstasy, at his residence in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, as well as simple urine test kits to detect stimulant components.
Investigators suspect Aska, whose real name is Shigeaki Miyazaki, used the kits to avoid being caught in drug testing, and that he took illegal drugs on daily basis.
On May 18, police sent papers to prosecutors on Aska and an acquaintance, Kasumi Tochinai, 37, who is also suspected of possessing drugs.
The two suspects have both denied the allegations.
Drug laws are very strict in Japan, and drug-related scandals involving Japanese celebrities have sparked media circuses and can ruin careers.
In August 2009, a popular idol-turned-actress and her husband were arrested on suspicion of possessing stimulants. In November last year, an actor couple was also arrested over allegations they jointly used stimulants at their residence in Tokyo.
A former popular TV entertainer who was repeatedly arrested over suspected use of stimulants and cocaine said during his trial that he turned to drugs to deal with the “pressure of high expectations” from the audience.
The crime group in northern Kanto buys stimulants in bulk on a periodic basis, repackages them into 0.5-gram packages for one-time use, and sells them to end users. It is an “easy and lucrative business,” the mobster said.
Stimulants are addictive because “they liberate users from fatigue and worries,” and users “cannot stop once they use them although they are destroying their bodies,” the mob boss said.
According to National Police Agency, 10,909 people were arrested over suspected violations of the Stimulants Control Law in 2013, including 2,206 people aged 50 or older.

The number of older suspects has risen in recent years.

Three admit roles in mob Christmas extortion

Cheryl Makin

NEWARK – Three former longshoremen acted more like the Grinch than Santa when they conspired with the mob to extort Christmastime tribute payments from fellow port workers with the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1235.
The three admitted roles in the holiday scheme, which involved a reputed member of the Genovese crime family, and could face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced, the U.S. attorneys for New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York said Wednesday.
Salvatore LaGrasso, 58, of Edison; Michael Nicolosi, 45, of Staten Island; and Julio Porrao, 71, of Palm Coast, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiring to extort Christmastime tributes from the union members. They entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark.
Charges are still pending against five defendants, including a racketeering conspiracy charge against Stephen Depiro, 58, of Kenilworth — a reputed soldier in the Genovese organized crime family. Since at least 2005, Depiro has managed the Genovese family’s control over the New Jersey waterfront, including the nearly three-decades-long extortion of port workers in Local 1, Local 1235 and Local 1478, authorities said.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, LaGrasso, Nicolosi and Porrao admitted that they conspired with each other and others to compel tribute payments from ILA union members, who made the payments based on actual and threatened force, violence and fear, Fishman said. The timing of the extortons typically coincided with the receipt by some ILA members of “container royalty fund” checks, a form of year-end compensation.
LaGrasso and Nicolosi were suspended from their positions after their arrests. Porrao already had retired at the time of his arrest.
Members of the Genovese family, including Depiro, are charged with conspiring to collect tribute payments from New Jersey port workers at Christmastime each year through their corrupt influence over union officials, including the last three presidents of Local 1235, Fishman said.
LaGrasso, Nicolosi, and Porrao face up to 20 years in prison an a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 17 for LaGrasso and Nicolosi and for Sept. 24 for Porrao.
U.S. Attorneys Paul Fishman of New Jersey and Loretta E. Lynch of the Eastern District of New York credited the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of Inspector General, the Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas. They also thanked the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor for its cooperation and assistance in the investigation.

Grimm's Texts, Emails, Financial Disclosures Among Prosecutors' Evidence


Evidence against Grimm includes texts and emails between Grimm and cooperating witnesses, three years of Grimm’s financial disclosure reports in Congress and tax returns by a former Grimm business partner linked to the Gambino crime family.

Rep. Michael Grimm calls the case against him a “political witch-hunt.” If that’s true, it looks like a well-documented one.
  In a hearing Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Capozzolo said the government is turning over more than 7,000 documents and 8,000 emails supporting the charges against Grimm.
 The Staten Island Republican faces 20 counts including wire fraud, tax evasion, perjury and hiring of undocumented workers at a Manhattan health food restaurant, Healthalicious, which he partly owned from 2006 to 2010.
 The Daily News has reported that Ofer Biton, an Israeli who had a stake in the restaurant and helped Grimm raise money for his 2010 congressional campaign, and a former Healthalicious manager, Manuel Perez, have cooperated with feds against Grimm after coping pleas.
 A former Grimm accountant, Wayne Muratoe, testified before a grand jury days before Grimm’s indictment.
 But a May 19 letter from the prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York listing evidence that is being turned over adds detail on how Grimm’s former pals helped the government indict him for cheating on taxes.
 The preliminary list of evidence includes emails between Grimm and a “Healthalicious manager,” “documents provided by a cooperat[ing] witness,” and “records provided by a Healthalicious employee.” Also listed are “text messages between Grimm and a cooperating witness.”
 The list of evidence indicates a seemingly straightforward federal case. Prosecutors plan to prove Grimm maintained a false set of books and lied in financial filings. They will contrast the phony forms with material provided by cooperating witnesses, and with Grimm’s own statements in texts and emails.
 Prosecutors are turning over an extensive list of financial documents. Those include years of tax, health and labor filings by Healthalicious and its parent company, Granny Sayz, records of Grimm’s personal finances, the restaurant’s accounts, bank account and credit card records and financial disclosure forms Grimm filed in Congress from 2009 to 2012.
 The documents show that prosecutors obtained warrants for, searched and analyzed “two cellular telephones” during their investigation.
 Also included in the discovery are IRS 1040 forms by Bennett Orfaly, a partner in the restaurant. Feds have said Orfaly is close Anthony (Fat Tony) Morelli, a capo in the Gambino crime family captain, which Grimm, as an FBI agent, was once briefly assigned to investigate.
 Grimm, who faces an uphill reelection fight against against Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia, also won a judge’s permission to skip future court appearances.
 The Congressman looks likely to face voters before confronting a jury.
 District Court Judge Pamela Chen set the next hearing in the case for July 21. She said she’ll declare a “complex case” due the amount of evidence and number of charges. That designation will slow proceedings.
 Grimm and his lawyers indicated no plans on Monday to try to speed up the trial to obtain a verdict before Election Day on Nov. 4.

Colorful past for insider at center of red light probe

Colorful past for insider at center of red light probe

John Bills was a top Madigan operative with family links to the mob who partied on the field with World Series champs. Now he's at the center of the feds' red light bribery case.

By David Kidwell,
John Bills fits right in to the world of colorful characters who do the heavy lifting for Chicago politicians every election — raising donations, knocking on doors and delivering all of the vote.
But in Bills' case, the colors have often been a bit brighter. A South Side native, his family history is dotted with connections to organized crime. A huge White Sox fan, he got a job with the club, celebrated the World Series victory on the field with players and still sports a replica championship ring.
A veteran political worker for House Speaker Michael Madigan, he earned a reputation as a top fundraiser and vote-getter in the vaunted 13th Ward Democratic Organization who fell in and out of favor with his boss and with fellow precinct captains who turned to him when they couldn't make their numbers.
Federal investigators last week painted another picture of Bills, as the linchpin in a decadelong corruption scheme that brought red light cameras to Chicago.
The bribery scandal, among the most brazen ever to envelop City Hall, centers at least for now on Bills, a 32-year bureaucrat portrayed in a court filing last week as a man unembarrassed by his own greed, whose demands for more never ceased and who pitted one bidder against another in order to sweeten his own deal.
That version of Bills — one that he and his attorney adamantly deny — is the one federal prosecutors would use to pursue their case that he abused his office and took as much as $2 million in bribes for steering the red light camera contract worth more than $120 million.
But Bills, 52, is also a father and a husband, the life of the party, a man friends describe as jovial and always ready to give his time to help friends and strangers alike.
"Whether it was at City Hall, or at the precinct, or working to get the players to a charity golfing event, John has always been a guy you can count on to get things done, a point person," said Tom Ryan, 66, a retired city employee who once worked for Bills and is one of his best friends.
"That's the John Bills I know," Ryan said. "That stuff I read in those charging papers? That is not the John I know."
In the fallout of what could be the first of many charges in Chicago's ongoing red light camera investigation, triggered by Tribune reporting, questions have emerged about how one midlevel bureaucrat gets the juice to single-handedly steer such a lucrative contract and why he so adamantly refuses to cooperate with federal authorities looking to expand their investigation.
Bills has argued he never had the clout and he has no information to help prosecutors. But a closer look reveals an extended family steeped for decades in Chicago's patronage politics and an even more insular organization, the Chicago mob.
His cousin Guy was an outfit turncoat who entered the federal witness protection program. His uncle was once shot during a brawl by Angelo "the Hook" La Pietra, who would later become an infamous South Side mob boss. His dad, who spent 35 years working in the city's Forestry Department, was arrested in his youth for taking bets on horses.
Interviews with a half dozen friends and 13th Ward acquaintances of Bills, along with public records, paint a portrait of Bills as hard-partying, and someone with a reputation for sometimes embellishing tales to pump up his own importance.
"John always liked to talk," said one friend who knew Bills from his work for Madigan at the 13th Ward. "Sometimes we would all just look at one another and wonder, 'Did he just say that?'
"I remember one time we were all sitting and waiting for a precinct captains meeting and he was complaining about a trip to Miami and the crappy hotel some contractor bought him down there," the friend said. "It didn't register at the time that he might be talking about the camera company, but we couldn't believe he would just be so open about it.
"It was almost like he was proud of it," the friend said.
For people inside Madigan's political operation, talking openly about its inside dealings is nearly impossible. But several contacted by the Tribune agreed to speak about their dealings with Bills on the condition their names not be used.
"John was always making it known how close he was to Madigan," said one close friend. "It was always Mike says this and Mike told him that. We knew he was a top moneymaker, but we all took most of that with a grain of salt. You had to know John."
Ryan said Bills was valuable to the Madigan operation.
"He was a good precinct captain, one of the best," Ryan said. "You never saw John for three weeks before an election because he was out knocking on doors. He'd go back three, four times if he had to, making sure people were voting, getting rides, anything they needed."
For decades Bills was known as a top-earning precinct captain for Madigan, always making his quotas and sometimes raking in as much as $10,000 in fundraising tickets. Bills often sold tickets to his own employees in the city Bureau of Electricity, dubbed "Madigan Electric" at a criminal trial because of the number of 13th Ward political workers with jobs there.
"Yeah, he expected his guys to buy tickets — that's just the way it was," said another acquaintance who worked for the bureau for 20 years, much of it under Bills. "But John wasn't alone in that, there were a lot of guys like that."
Bills was so successful as a moneymaker that he would often cover for other precinct captains who fell short of their quotas, several interviewed recalled. "Some of us just weren't as into it as he was so we would procrastinate and come up short," one said. "Sometimes John would offer to let us use his overage, for 60 cents on the dollar.
"There always had to be something in it for John."
Through his attorney, Nishay Sanan, Bills denied ever charging for his help making fundraising quotas.
Almost every year, Bills would organize at least one trip to the Super Bowl or World Series for his inner circle of up to eight friends — mostly other Madigan precinct captains or City Hall co-workers.
"I can tell you we always had a good time," said one regular attendee. "John was the one who always collected the cash for the hotel or whatever. Looking back on it now that I know there might have been someone else picking up the tab, you have to wonder whether he was making any money off us too."
White Sox fanatic
Bills is a lifelong avid White Sox fan, who worked for the team as a bat boy when he was a kid. His friends said Bills was ecstatic in 1999, when he landed a part-time job as a clubhouse attendant with the team.
He relished his ability to hobnob with players, even as he was teased by his inner circle.
"His job was to hold their jock straps, literally," said one longtime friend. "I mean, that was his actual job. We always gave him a hard time about it, but he loved it. According to him, he was practically managing the team."
A highlight of his time with the Sox was the day in Houston in 2005 when the team won the World Series. There in the celebratory scrum on the pitcher's mound is John Bills with his arms raised in the air, his photograph beamed around the world.
Bills often talked about his close relationship with the players, even suggesting to friends he once bought a used Mercedes from a player — although the stories differ on which player.
"He told me it belonged to Aaron Rowand," said one friend. Federal authorities, who have interviewed many of Bills' closest friends and collected some of the same legendary tales, have investigated the possibility that the Mercedes they say Bills bought with bribe money once belonged to first baseman Paul Konerko.
When contacted by the Tribune, both Konerko and Rowand, who is no longer playing baseball, said they never sold a car to John Bills.
Friends interviewed by the Tribune said Bills often told entertaining stories about his days with the White Sox, but it was difficult to discern fact from fiction.
"One story he liked to tell was the day he was on the field before a game and spotted Mayor (Richard) Daley in his box," said one friend. "It was a day game so, of course, John being John, he wanted everyone around him to know that he knew the mayor so he went over to him and said hi.
"According to John the mayor said, 'Hello John,' and then sort of lowering his brow said, 'John, you're not on the clock are you?'"
"Of course, the way John tells it, he was on the clock, but he told the mayor 'no,'" the friend said.
A Tribune review of Bills' city payroll records found no evidence to suggest he was working both jobs at the same time. Federal authorities have asked the White Sox for Bills' pay records.
Both Bills' lawyer and his friend Ryan said Bills never worked for the Sox while on the city clock.
"No way, there were a lot of guys at the city who were jealous of John because of all the promotions he got, so there were a lot of guys who would have loved to catch John leaving early like that," Ryan said. "No way."
Bills was fired by the White Sox in 2007, after a "transgression involving White Sox property," said Scott Reifert, a club spokesman. He declined to elaborate.
One friend said Bills repeatedly sold White Sox memorabilia on eBay.
"I remember once I got call from John asking for a favor," said the friend. "A few minutes later he shows up at my door with eight signed Frank Thomas bats, asking me if I would mind mailing them to some guy in California.
"He told me he didn't want anything coming back to his address."
Through his attorney, Bills denied selling bats or doing anything inappropriate with club memorabilia and said the Daley encounter never happened.
Reifert declined to discuss the specific reason for Bills' firing, but he said it would be a violation of White Sox policy to sell such memorabilia. Reifert also said the White Sox are curious where Bills obtained the World Series ring he is wearing in a photograph published by the Tribune.
"I can tell you it was never issued to him by the White Sox," Reifert said.
Reifert also questioned another photograph of a mounted silver presentation bat once posted online that reads "Presented to John A. Bills, congratulations and good luck on your retirement from the Chicago White Sox Organization, June 30, 2011."
"I have no idea where that came from, but it wasn't from the White Sox," he said.
According to records from Bills' 2011 divorce, the value of his White Sox memorabilia collection tops $10,000. His black Cadillac still sports White Sox vanity plates with his initials.
Bills' attorney has confirmed that federal investigators were looking into his client's sports memorabilia collection and speaking to his circle of friends.
Friends also knew Bills to be a hard-partier, something that led him to acknowledge a drinking problem. In July 2000, records show, he was arrested on a DUI charge after he lost control of his Cadillac and crashed into a bank parking lot at 113th Street and Cicero Avenue in Alsip.
According to his arrest report, he had a blood alcohol level of .22. Court records show the charge was dismissed.
"John has had problems in his life related to a drinking problem, but since then he has straightened himself out," said Sanan, his lawyer. "That was 14 years ago."
Family's mob ties
Records also show that Bills comes from a family steeped in ties to South Side political organizations and the Chicago mob.
According to archived law enforcement records, Bills father — John A. Bills Sr. — was arrested in 1948 for making book on horses out of a South Side garage with a crew that included reputed mob characters Frank "Skids" Caruso and Morris "Mutt" Caruso. Records don't indicate how that case was resolved.
Records also show that in 1946, Bills Sr. was in the car with another crew responsible for the robbery and sexual assault of a woman they met at a bar. Bills was indicted in connection with the case but charges were dropped. Also in the car that night was Fred "Peanuts" Roti, who would later became the longtime Chicago alderman for the 1st Ward.
Roti was long reputed to be the mob's representative in the City Council, and spent years in federal prison in the 1990s after convictions for racketeering and extortion.
Charles E. "Duckie" Bills — the elder Bills' brother and John Bills' uncle — was a bookmaker associated with the infamous 26th Street crew, records show. Duckie Bills was once shot and wounded by La Pietra after a fistfight, according to testimony in a federal court battle over mob influence at the Laborers' International Union.
La Pietra would later become one of the most feared mob bosses in Chicago, ruthlessly controlling South Side gambling operations until his conviction in 1986 in a scheme to skim profits from a Las Vegas casino. He was released from prison in 1997 and died two years later.
Duckie Bills' death in 1992 was noted in a City Hall resolution presented by then Ald. Patrick Huels, 11th Ward. The tribute noted his longtime membership in the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, but the resolution excluded one name from Duckie's long list of family members — Duckie's own son Charles "Guy" Bills.
Guy Bills and his brother Sean — both first cousins of John Bills — were also longtime members of the 26th Street Crew, records show. But Guy Bills turned federal informant against the mob after he was arrested burglarizing a suburban jewelry store in 1986, and his testimony at the 1989 trial of reputed mob boss Alberto Tocco landed him in the federal witness protection program.
John Bills Sr. and his nephews Guy and Sean have all since died.
"Everybody has bad seeds in their family," Sanan said. "It doesn't make John a criminal or a bad person."
Longtime city worker
Like so many of his relatives before him, Bills made a career out of working for the city.
He started as a lamp maintenance worker in 1979 in the Bureau of Electricity in the Streets and Sanitation Department. He rose through various positions to become a midlevel manager there, and later at the Transportation Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
"I have said this many times to aldermen, friends, anyone who will listen, John Bills was the best administrator I ever worked for," said Ryan, who became friends with Bills while working for him at emergency management. "He was always ready to solve any problem I brought to him, and when everyone else was bobbing and weaving he was the one who was always ready to make a decision."
"He was always a great guy, very ready to help out whenever you needed him," said Bernie Hansen, the longtime 44th Ward alderman who retired in 2002. He said he met Bills during his time at City Hall and they stayed friends, with Bills stopping in to see the retired Hansen in Arizona.
John Bills' career at City Hall wasn't without its series of bumps, like the time in 2000 when Bills took it upon himself to support the campaign of then-Ald. Patrick Levar, 45th, against Dorothy Brown in her successful run for Cook County Circuit Court clerk. He made the mistake of not seeking Madigan's approval.
 "Unbeknownst to John, I guess Madigan didn't think Levar had much of a chance, so there wasn't a lot of support," Ryan said. "Anyway, when Madigan found out that John was working for Levar he wasn't too happy and called him in. They had a bit of a falling out."
Bills, then an assistant commissioner in the electricity bureau, was exiled to a trailer in a South Side quarry.
"The next day, John was moved to the quarry and handed a tape measure," Ryan said, adding that Bills spent about a year measuring offices for renovations. "Eventually, they let him back in."
"He absolutely hated it," another friend said. "I remember he had to go down to (13th Ward Ald. Frank) Olivo's office with his tail between his legs begging to get back in good graces.
"Eventually, Madigan let him back in," the friend said. "For one thing, he raised a lot of money for Mike."
Red light investigation
Bills was an assistant transportation commissioner in 2002 when the idea of automated red light cameras took hold at the city; he sat on the selection committee that voted to give the business to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. The small program grew into a major revenue source, generating more than $300 million for the city and more than $120 million for the company.
Bills was still overseeing the program when he retired in 2011 as a $138,492-per-year deputy managing commissioner and went to work for the Redflex-funded Traffic Safety Coalition, run by a Chicago political consultant with strong ties to former Mayor Richard Daley and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In late 2012, Tribune reporting about the cozy relationship between Bills and Redflex set off a series of investigations that cost Redflex its Chicago contract and led the company to dump its top executives and acknowledge the firm likely bribed Bills with lavish trips and massive payments funneled through a Bills friend set up as a Redflex consultant.
On Wednesday, federal authorities charged Bills with one count of bribery and accused him of hatching a scheme to steer the contract to Redflex almost as soon as he was approached by an official with the then-fledgling company.
Authorities allege Bills coached Redflex officials on how to win the business during clandestine meetings and worked to rig the selection process in their favor. In exchange, authorities said, he was plied with numerous vacation trips and cash payments they allege he spent on an Arizona condominium, a Mercedes convertible, a boat and other personal expenses.
Bills was released without posting bail money, and his attorney said authorities were using the threat of a 10-year prison sentence to force him to point fingers at others.
Ryan said his friend is not the kind of man who would take bribes.
"And now he's looking at losing his pension, at losing everything," he said. "I don't believe any of it."