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How a Mobster's Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family

by Frank Calabrese Jr.

Pub Date: March 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-307-71772-6
Publisher: Broadway

The inside story of a notable organized-crime prosecution, in which a son turned on his ferocious father.

For decades, organized crime in Chicago—the so-called “Outfit”—remained a feared and mysterious cabal. In 2007, prosecutors scored a huge coup in the “Family Secrets” trial, sentencing several key mobsters to long sentences for racketeering and numerous old murders. Improbably, the process began when imprisoned Outfit member Frank Calabrese Jr. contacted the FBI, wishing to cooperate in order to prevent his also-jailed father’s return to his crooked ways: “I feel I have to help you keep this sick man locked up forever.” Both Calabreses had pled guilty to federal racketeering charges in 1997, having run a successful “juice loan” business for years. Amazingly, the younger Calabrese recorded conversations with his father in prison, and the surveillance provided the core of the prosecution’s case. The book offers a startling narrative of Outfit mayhem—the Calabrese crew was involved in a long string of killings, some notorious, like that of Tony Spilotro (fictionalized in Martin Scorsese’s Casino). Calabrese Jr. particularly regrets the involvement of his uncle, Nick, a quiet Vietnam veteran who became ensnared in his brother’s business, ultimately transforming into a hit man (Nick also turned state’s witness and testified). The author still seems bewildered by his father’s ability to be simultaneously a loving patriarch, a ruthless Outfit boss and a cold-blooded killer. As with most mob memoirs, Calabrese Jr. performs exculpatory gymnastics in order to blur the extent of the narrator’s criminal involvement, and the writing is workmanlike, if wry at times. Still, this is an undeniably engaging tale, capturing the nitty-gritty of daily life in the “crews” of the Outfit.

A useful and readable addition to Mob Lit.