August 6, 2003
Discovering a human tooth in Bridgeport is like finding a seashell at the seashore: Find a seashell, and chances are that you're at the beach.
Find a tooth, and you could be in the tough ancestral home of Chicago mayors and Chicago Outfit muscle, where you don't need a dentist to lose a few molars.The FBI confirmed Tuesday that it has found fragments of what agents think are human bones, and also a human tooth, buried 6 feet underground, at the edge of what is now Parking Lot C at Sox park.
There are two ways to consider Tuesday's news conference: damage control or a small but significant find, not as dramatic as a complete skeleton, but dangerous if they get DNA out of it.
The digging was part of the FBI's investigation into an unsolved 33-year-old Outfit murder, one of 19 such unsolved killings on the talkative lips of high-ranking Chicago mobster Nick Calabrese, who has been cooperating with the feds for months.
"We did find one tooth," said Thomas Kneir, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, in briefing reporters Tuesday.
Reporters, hoping for a plethora of bones, were disappointed.
"And we have found bits of bone that we still believe and hope are human remains," Kneir said. "Scientific types will look at that, and hopefully we can get some DNA and either link it to the individual or not."
The individual is Michael "Hambone" Albergo, also known as "Bones" Albergo, an Outfit juice-loan collector who disappeared in August of 1970, as he was facing trial on loan-sharking charges.
"And it's probably the second time he's had a shovel over his head," wisecracked the new legman, who, as yet, has no proper nickname of his own.
Kneir said FBI lab specialists hope to extract DNA from the tooth--and from the bone fragments if they are found to be human.
If the bones belong to Bones, the Albergo family will be given the pieces for a proper burial.
"They're not full bones, they're pieces of bone," Kneir said. "We're all waiting too, just like you are. Is it human, is it not human?"
If they're human, then the FBI's investigation of the Albergo murder, and the 18 other killings, will give them leverage to squeeze Outfit members for further information.
And even before the Bridgeport dig began, criminal defense lawyers representing the top wiseguys were telling me they expected indictments in the cases to be handed down in November.
That's about the time that imprisoned Outfit boss Jimmy Marcello is scheduled to be released from the federal prison in Milan, Mich.
Marcello, who spent years inside with Calabrese, is probably suffering from nerves. One way for him to release that anxiety would be to get locked up in a small cell with Nick, but I don't think that will happen.
While the FBI wasn't extremely talkative about Albergo, court records show that in his 43 years, he tried to live up to his full potential as a criminal--that is, when he wasn't working at McCormick Place, helping the city shine as a convention capital.
He'd been arrested for grand theft, possession of stolen property and murder. But court records from 1969 show that one judge threw out the 1965 stolen property case, and the other cases--including a 1960 murder arrest--were formally listed as "disposition unknown."
That's Chicago for "the paperwork disappeared," even though the charges were only a few years old back then. It's like that seashell or tooth: If you find that Outfit thugs have "disposition unknown" next to their names on murder cases, chances are you're in Cook County.
According to the incomplete court file from 1969, Chicago Police Detective Lawrence Ferenzi--who died in a 1983 Wisconsin fishing accident--gave a thumbnail sketch of Albergo's career:
In 1947 he was arrested for getting drunk in Los Angeles. The next year, he was convicted for an unspecified crime in Cook County, to which he was sentenced to one day in jail and ordered to pay a $1 fine.
I don't know what crime would result in a day in jail and a $1 fine, but it must have been serious.
If the bone fragments are not human and if Albergo's DNA cannot be matched to what's in the tooth, then the FBI won't be happy with Calabrese.
Outfit types will begin celebrating, though, perhaps raising a glass of anisette on Grand Avenue, thin smiles on their faces.
I'm sure that Outfit attorneys will scoff at Tuesday's underwhelming revelations. They may be correct.
But it's also true that the tooth and the bones were found exactly where Calabrese told the FBI to dig.
The issue--as I told you when the digging began last week--is all about Calabrese's credibility. And so far, that disposition remains unknown.
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