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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Chicago mob brought to book
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Four mobsters and an ex-policeman from Chicago have been found guilty of a criminal conspiracy that involved years of extortion and murder. Two of the killings were dramatised in the film Casino.

The Spilotro brothers
Anthony Spilotro (far left) and his brother Michael (far right) were murdered in 1986

In the 1995 movie Joe Pesci's character, Nicky Santoro, puts a man's head in a vice and tortures him for information.

Director Martin Scorsese may have been using artistic licence but there is no doubt the character Santoro was based on - Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro - was a vicious thug.

Spilotro was an enforcer who was employed by the Chicago mafia - known as The Outfit - to oversee their casino-skimming operations in Las Vegas in the 1970s.

But Spilotro fell out of favour with his overlords, after organising a series of jewellery robberies which had not been authorised back in the Windy City.

One day in June 1986 Spilotro and his brother Michael were tricked into attending a meeting in the Midwest. They were overpowered and beaten to a pulp with baseball bats. Their bodies were later found buried in a field in Indiana.

(Left to right) Joey Lombardo, Frank Calabrese and Paul Schiro in their younger days
James Marcello, 65: a "made" man and boss, or capo, of the Melrose Park crew
Joey Lombardo, 78: boss of the Grand Avenue crew, known as The Clown, Lumpy or Lumbo
Frank Calabrese Sr, 70: member of the South Side crew who continued to commit crimes while incarcerated
Paul Schiro, 70: a jewel thief known as "The Indian", who was a close associate of Anthony Spilotro
The murders remained unsolved for decades.

But the FBI spent years investigating the Outfit and in the spring of 2005 Operation Family Secrets finally bore fruit, with indictments being handed out against 14 defendants, several of whom were on the run.

This week, after a three-month trial which was widely reported in the US, several of those responsible were found guilty of racketeering, loan sharking, extortion and 18 murders.

The guilty men are Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, 78, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, 65, Frank Calabrese Sr, 70, and Paul "The Indian" Schiro, 70.

A fifth defendant - retired Chicago policeman Anthony Doyle, 62 - was convicted of a number of offences, excluding murder.

On Tuesday prosecutors asked the jury to find the men guilty of four specific murders, including the killing of the Spilotro brothers.

The Indiana field where mobster brothers the Spilotros were found
The Spilotro brothers were dumped in a field in Indiana

Much of the FBI's case depended on Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, who admitted to helping kill Michael Spilotro.

Calabrese claimed that - unlike in the film, where the Spilotros were attacked in the field and buried alive - the brothers were lured to a basement and killed before being dumped.

He told the trial: "He came into the basement and there were a whole bunch of guys who grabbed him and strangled him and beat him to death.

"Tony put up a fight. He kept saying, 'You guys are going to get in trouble, you guys are going to get in trouble'."

'Cruel and ruthless'

Defence lawyers claimed throughout the trial that Calabrese had fabricated his testimony to save himself from facing the death penalty.

But in his plea bargain agreement Calabrese said the murders were "committed in order to protect the Outfit from individuals who were providing information about the enterprise to law enforcement officers."

In his closing speech to the jury prosecutor Mitchell Mars said: "There was no mercy with regard to these murders - they were cruel, they were ruthless."

Joe Pesci
Actor Joe Pesci's character in Casino was based on Anthony Spilotro

Ultimately it will be up to District Judge James B Zagel to decide what sentence each man will face.

But considering their age and the gravity of their crimes it is unlikely any of them will see the light of day again.

The power of the mafia, both in Chicago and elsewhere in the US, has been significantly reduced in the last 20 years but they have not gone away.

But Las Vegas, the former mob-controlled city which was the setting for Casino, is widely considered to be virtually mafia-free and all the big casinos are run by squeaky-clean Wall Street-listed corporations.

Five guilty in Chicago mob trial
11 Sep 07 |  Americas

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