November 5, 2003
If you care about movies, you've probably noticed that Illinois politicians from the mayor to the governor have been eagerly promoting Chicago as a setting for Hollywood movies.
Their press agents have ginned up story after story about the importance of making movies in Chicago, rather than Toronto. And the politicians have offered tax breaks to lure movie crews here, to generate jobs and millions of dollars worth of business for Chicago production companiesSo I've decided to help these political friends of ours by pitching a locally produced Hollywood movie based loosely on a Chicago Outfit street boss who is scheduled to be released from federal prison in Milan, Mich., on Wednesday.
Here's my working title:
"Jimmy Marcello, the Three Wise Men and the Family Secrets."
Jack O'Rourke spent 27 years with the FBI working on Chicago Outfit cases, and I called Jack to ask about Marcello, who goes by the low-key nickname Jimmy "The Man."
"Jimmy Marcello is the new underboss," O'Rourke said. "The street mobsters are happy. Marcello was the underboss for [late mob boss] Sam Carlisi, and now Marcello's coming out of prison, he's got a whole crew eagerly waiting for him.
"He's a man with a singular lack of humor," said O'Rourke, now working as a private investigator. "Word is that some rough stuff might start again."
What makes Marcello a natural for the movies is that he's already got friends and relatives in the production end in Chicago. He's been in prison since 1995, so he might be ready to dabble in something artsy, like film.
The Three Wise Men in the title refer to the three real wise men believed to run the Chicago Outfit--John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo and Joe "The Builder" Andriacchi.
They're wise because they're low-key. And they're smart enough to let Marcello become the public street boss and take the heat.
Family Secrets is the name of the FBI's investigation into more than a dozen unsolved Chicago Outfit murders. Federal indictments from Family Secrets are expected early next year, law-enforcement sources said.
The investigation into the mob killings is part of a larger racketeering conspiracy case involving many of the top Outfit types, going back to the 1970s.
In February, I told you how Family Secrets began--although then I didn't know the name of the operation. Top mobster Nick Calabrese had been swept into the government's witness protection program. He had a falling out with his brother, Frank, while they were in the federal penitentiary at Milan.
Another friend of theirs at Milan, gossiping and telling stories with the Calabrese brothers, was Jimmy Marcello.
Calabrese began telling federal authorities about more than a dozen unsolved Outfit killings, including the baseball-bat murder of Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, which was captured in the Hollywood film "Casino."
When Nick Calabrese did not return home from prison, and word leaked that he was in the witness program, the rest of the Outfit began to panic.
Hence, Family Secrets.
Last summer, the FBI dug up a stretch of ground under a parking lot at Sox Park in Bridgeport, looking for the remains of another Outfit thug who disappeared years ago. Only a few bones were found, and federal authorities said they haven't established if the bones belonged to Michael "Bones" Albergo, the vanished mob soldier.
And there are other unsolved murders, including that of hit man and thief Ronnie Jarrett, who was shot to death in front of his Bridgeport home in 1999.
As part of Operation Family Secrets, the FBI got search warrants for hair and DNA samples from many top Chicago Outfit soldiers and bosses.
Lombardo is just one who was ordered to consent to a DNA mouth swab and federal haircut. That kind of attention truly aggravates the wise men.
"We expect the three wise men to lie low and let Marcello do what he wants," a top law-enforcement source told me Tuesday. "They don't want to draw attention to themselves. After the mouth-swabbing went down last winter, they're figuring, if someone wants to be the guy, let him. If Marcello wants to play it like a brazen John Gotti type, they'll say, `Go ahead.' What better way to get the attention off yourself than to let Marcello get the spotlight."
Expect everyone who visits Marcello to be under FBI surveillance. And expect his story to play out against the larger theme of Family Secrets.
My movie title, "Jimmy Marcello, the Three Wise Men and the Family Secrets" might be too long, but according to my law-enforcement sources, there are some fascinating characters with names like Pudgy and Little Al and Fat Mike.
But I'd better work quickly.
Before it can become a movie, it might become an audio production--on FBI tape.
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