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:
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.