Jailed Suburban Chief Reveals
How He Became a Mobster
IPSN Oct. 20, 1997
Michael Corbitt’s induction into Chicago’s organized crime operations came about innocently.
As a teenager, Corbitt was hired by Pete and Bill Altiere, who owned A & W Electric in Summit, Illinois. Publicly, A&W reworked electrical appliances, but Corbitt says that as an employee, he knew the real business was building and supplying gambling devices and slot machines to the Chicago Mob, through another associate, Bill White.
Corbitt’s first job was to serve as the “route man,” driving with another man delivering slot machines and picking machines that needed repair.
It didn’t take Corbitt long to decide that he wanted to run a business of his own, and leaning on the new mob friends he made, Corbitt borrowed money from them and opened a gas station when he was 18 years old at 56th and Harlem Avenue, in Summit. His friends at A&W would bring items to him for resale or trade.
And, eventually, the same men would come to him and ask him to store large trucks on his gas station’s back lot, which was fenced in. The trucks, as it turns out had been hijacked, but Corbitt would be paid well by the hijackers.
“These trucks turned out to be hijacked material, stolen material, and they would leave them there,” Corbitt testified.
“When they would pick them up, they would give me an envelope with some money in it and thank you very much.”
One day, in the mid-60s, one of the men that came to see him was Sam Giancana, who was accompanied by Dominic Blasi and Marshall and John Caifano and Jackie Cerone. In fact, Corbitt recalled, Cerone would come by the gas station often with his girlfriends.
Not only would they drop off hi-jacked trucks at the station, they also unloaded stolen material that was placed in the back of their cars.
“They would give me an envelope. They’d give me a hundred dollar bill. They’d give me a fifty dollar bill. They were always good to me,” Corbitt recalls of his youthful induction into the activities of the Chicago Outfit.
Corbitt said he got out of the gas station business and storing hijacked trucks and stolen merchandise when the Altiere brothers approached him and told him they wanted his property to use as a parking lot for a supper club they had purchased and located next door called the Forum.
“Several weeks after that occurred, Sam Giancana and Dominic Blasi came in, and they were aware of what was going on and we had a conversation and Sam Giancana said, what do you want to do?” Corbitt recalls.
“I said I want to get a job. I want to make some money. He says, do you want to be a policeman? I said, no, I don’t really want to be a policeman. He said, well, it would be a good thing for you to, you know, get a job as a policeman and maybe you could help us out once in awhile.”
Corbitt, at that point, had married and had a young son and he needed the job, now that his gas station enterprises with the Chicago Mob had come to a crashing halt. The station was closed, the property was transferred to the Forum and Corbitt became a policeman.
Corbitt was told by Giancana to see his “friend,” Willow Springs Mayor John Rust.
“I went out and had a meeting with him and was sworn in his tavern that day as a police officer, that day. I think I was 21 or 22 years old,” Corbitt recalls.
Two days later, Corbitt was returning to the Willow Springs Police Station when he saw Giancana and another mobster sitting in a car idling in the Willow Springs Police Station parking lot.
“I drove up and he got into the car with me and he asked, he said, well, what do you think?” Corbitt recalled. “I said I think it’s kind of boring, but I think it’s okay.”
Corbitt said from that moment on he was a “protected guy. My Chinaman was Giancana.”
That was a turning point not only for Corbitt but for the Mob and the Southwest Suburbs. Willow Springs for years has lived under the cloud of being a mob controlled town. People knew better than to drive through it on Willow Springs Road. You avoided it.
And Corbitt confirms that Willow Springs, much like the Town of Cicero, was completely under the grip of Organized Crime, from the politics, to the issuance of business licenses and liquor licenses, fees, fines and penalties, all tied to kickbacks and payments to members of the mob.
How much money could Corbitt collect. In one passage, he describes how he would bring cash to Chicago First Ward’s Pat Marcy at Counselor’s Row, which used to be located across from City Hall.
“Garbage bags. Hefty, maybe a — I would say a 30-gallon garbage bags and I mean they would be heaped to the top, but that’s how they collected money, in garbage bags. There was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bags.”
The money was taken to a “counting area” where it was counted, sorted and separated and marked for who would receive how much.
It wasn’t long before Corbitt came under the scrutiny of the FBI, and he noticed vehicles following him, even as a police chief. He had friends in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department check out license plates for him, that were traced to the FBI.
Eventually, Corbitt said he and other Willow Springs police officers confronted the mayor and the police chief then, demanding to get their share.
“Our mayor and our chief of police at that time had a system which was a trickle-down system, but didn’t trickle down very far. It trickled down to them and then that was the end of the system, and we were doing — the patrolmen and the guys on the street were doing all the work,” Corbitt said of bribes that were paid for protection.
One spot protected by the police and controlled by the mob was the old American Legion Center on Archer Road, which was not really an American Legion Post but was in fact a gambling front where fake walls were removed to reveal slot machines and gambling tables, Corbitt said in his testimony.
Corbitt said that after they complained, the system of pay-offs changed. Instead of giving the money directly to Mayor John “Doc” Rust or to the chief, the money went to the police officers, who brought it to Mayor Rust or the chief.
Mayor John “Doc” Rust managed a local bar which also served as the town’s chief House of Prostitution.
“When we objected, the envelope started coming to us, and then we would deliver it to him just so we could be there at the same time the envelope was opened,” Corbitt said.
Corbitt’s enterprises increased swiftly as he rose in the ranks of the Willow Springs Police Department. He left Willow Springs to work in the Summit Police Department in 1967, on Giancana’s orders, and then returned to Willow Springs in 1969. In 1973, Corbitt was named Chief of Police and held the post through 1982, the same year Dianne Masters was reported missing.
At that time, Corbitt said, federal convictions and investigations had forced the mob to tighten’s its belt and be more careful of their dealings. As Willow Springs Police Chief, Corbitt made himself the local “Boss” and he personally handled all of the bribes and kickbacks himself.
“You had to be real careful about how you were doing things,” Corbitt said. “There would be one person who would meet with these people, and then whatever splitting up would be done, I would do it. As the boss, then, after 1973, I took care of that.”
During that time, Corbitt solicited bribes from chop shop owners and from members of organized crime who were managing bookmaking operations in his town. And he fronted for organized crime interests. He would have DWI cases fixed through his friend, attorney Alan Masters.
After leaving the Willow Springs Police Department, Corbitt had meetings in May 1982 with the brothers of Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, Victor and Mike Spilotro, who were trying to set up an off-track betting parlor in Willow Springs. The Spilotros were the targets of an undercover FBI Sting headed by undercover agent Larry Damron, alias Larry Wright. Although Corbitt was a target in that sting, he managed to avoid FBI wiretaps.
The Spilotros told Corbitt about the success they had in running an illegal betting parlor in Palatine and how they had paid off officials there.
Corbitt said they eventually set up a messenger service that was supposed to take the bets and place them at the track, but the bets were “laid off,” and never placed. The mob kept the money, and paid off the winning bets, at their rate, themselves.
Corbitt said he paid a street tax on his receipts to the mob through Salvatore and Carmen Bastone.
Corbitt found himself vacationing in Hollywood , Florida at the condominium of Joey Aiuippa, a place where mobsters Wayne Bock and Ernest Rocco Infelise often held meetings.
His friendship with mobster Joey Testa, a wealthy banker who laundered mob cash, is well known, and when Testa died, it made headlines when the mobster left Corbitt a financial gift. The papers reported $100,000. The real amount was $800,000.
Corbitt had a lot of mob friends, but he had one enemy. Joey Lombardo.
“He really didn’t like me, and that was not a good position to be in, when he didn’t like you. He didn’t really like me and he voiced this to other people,” Corbitt testified.
“I was a cop. He didn’t want no cops around. He didn’t want no cops knowing anybody’s business. As a matter of fact, he even attempted to dissuade other people who were around me later on not to have anything to do with me. It didn’t work.”
Corbitt said that Lombardo owned a piece of several golf courses where Corbitt would often run into his son, Joey Lombardo Jr., and his brother, Rocco Lombardo.
“Lombardo was an enforcer. In my estimation, I believe that he filled up a cemetery or two,” Corbitt recalled. Although the Chicago Crime Commission this month named John DiFronzo as the head of the Chicago Outfit, Corbitt said he believes the show is being run by Lombardo.
After leaving the Willow Springs Police Department following a political upset tied to his suspected role in the Diane Master’s murder investigation, Corbitt went to the Cook County Sheriff’s Department so that he could continue carrying a badge and a gun and to front for the mob. He was assigned to the Clerk of the Circuit Court, at that time, Morgan Finley until he was indicted and convicted in 1987.
Corbitt was indicted in 1987, and was convicted in 1988 and was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, serving his time at a federal correctional institute in Florida. He faced three convictions, beginning in 1988, for racketeering, for conspiracy in 1989 and for obstructing justice in 1991.
After his indictment, the mob ordered Corbitt hit. The hit was rumored to have been ordered by Lombardo, and the hitman tabbed to carry it out was Gerry Scarpelli. It was one of the reasons why Corbitt agreed to testify against his former friends.