Good Ship Lollipop: Part 3
In Part Three of An Exclusive Report, The Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News Takes a Closer Look At:
Sucker’s Bet: Indian Givers
The mob’s most brazen attempt to infiltrate legalized gambling, and at the same time “shore up” their faltering grip in Las Vegas, involved a tribe of Indians living on the Rincon Reservation in San Diego County.
Gambling on Indian reservations in the U.S. attracts high rollers from all over the country. For many serious gamblers, it is much easier to place bets at a Native-American casino, if one happens to be in the area, than it is to get on a plane and fly to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and reserve a hotel room.
Tribal gambling operations are regulated by their local councils, who decide which management company will be brought in to run the casino. The decision to award service contracts to interested third parties is subject to the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In recent years, Indian reservation gambling has become an increasingly attractive target for organized crime groups, and the Chicago boys are no exception.
It is Don Angelini’s responsibility as the overseer of gambling activities for the Chicago outfit to identify and advise on possible new business ventures. One that had definite possibilities was California’s Rincon Reservation. The decision of whether or not to “finance” their gaming operations was discussed in a private meeting attended by John DiFronzo, presently the reputed head of the Chicago family; Angelini and Sam Carlisi at Rocky’s Restaurant in Melrose Park, July 1985. The plan was put on hold until March 21, 1987, when Angelini toured the reservation. A first-hand look by the “Wizard” was in order so business priorities could be established.
According to informants, Angelini decided the prospects for a gambling casino and bingo parlor to begin operations were highly favorable. The plan was to use the casino as a base of money-laundering operations for other illegal activities controlled by the Chicago mob, and to “skim profits off the top without the knowledge of the tribal council or Rincon Indians.
The outfit’s “point man” in southern California was Chris Petti (nee Chris George Paulos), a former Cicero bookmaker and loan shark who was sent to the West Coast in the late 1950s to serve under Frankie “the Bomp” Bompensiero.
Petti was the son of immigrant Greek parents, who hoped their son would one day follow the example of his older brother and complete a program at Worsham College of Mortuary Science and become an embalmer. Chris Petty wanted no part of “icing a stiff,” though this kind of training certainly had its advantages for the line of work he was about to engage in.
His criminal history in southern California included arrests for theft, illegal use of credit cards and bookmaking. After Bompensiero was murdered in 1977, Petti became the number one man in San Diego, for the Chicago outfit. During this time, Petti answered to Tony Spilotro, headquartered in Las Vegas, and Petti was thought to be on the way out by some mob watchers after the “Ant” met with his untimely demise. Tony was beaten and kicked to death.
Petti, however, was not tarnished by his dealings with Spilotro. He became an expert money launderer for people who needed to have large sums of cash suddenly made untraceable. When the casino takeover moved past the discussion stage, Petti was instructed to deal directly with Angelini’s brother-in-law, Michael C. Caracci, a soldier in the DiFronzo crew. With the connivance of Glen Martin Calac, a member of the Rincon tribe, San Diego lawyer Nicholas De Pento submitted several different proposals to the Tribal Council on behalf of certain “unnamed” clients wishing to assume bingo and card management at the reservation.
But after months of negotiation, the outfit began to lose interest in Rincon. A similar operation in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, where Cortina, Angelini and Sam Frank Urbana laundered more than $1 million in illegal profits coming from Illinois and Florida through Bingo World, Inc., had failed. Cortina and Angelini were both named in a sealed, fourteen- count indictment in that earlier case and neither boss was anxious to see history repeat itself.
Caracci called Petti at a pay phone they had been using regularly in San Diego – one that had been tapped by the government – and complained about his brother-in-law. In one conversation, the feds listened in as Caracci reported: “All his fucking years he’s always used his own B.R. (bankroll), and when you use your own B.R., if you blow, it doesn’t mean anything…But he don’t wanna go into these guys and fucking blow…He don’t know what the fuck they’re gonna do.” The decision was made to “back off” in March 1988, unless Petti could find some outside financing for Rincon. Chicago would simply share in the profits if that be the case.
Petti made contact with one Peter Carmassi,” an alleged money launderer for a Columbian drug cartel, who showed interest in the Rincon casino proposal. Carmassi was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent. At the same time, Petti was told by DiFronzo of another potential source of revenue; a $50,000 debt owed to the late Anthony Spilotro by Joseph “the Pig” Pignatello, a Las Vegas chef. Petti called on two Los Angeles associates, Carmen and Anthony DeNunzio, to squeeze Pignatello and four other men for payment on old debts. Carmen called Pignatello to say that if he was contemplating a trip back to Chicago without the $50,000 in hand, he’d better “take a one-way ticket, because you ain’t coming back.”
William Jahoda’s fear of being “tossed out a window” exhausted him both physically and emotionally. Shortly before Halloween in 1989, he asked to be “taken out of the game” by the feds. The government obliged, and placed him in permanent safekeeping.
As a result of B.J.’s undercover work, Rocco Infelise and eleven other members of the Ferriola street crew were indicted on murder and extortion charges in February 1990. The most sweeping prosecution in local mob history resulted in the conviction of Infelise, Marino, DeLaurentis and Bellavia on assorted racketeering charges. With regard to Infelise’s involvement in the murder of Hal Smith, the jury could not reach a verdict. DeLaurentis, however, was convicted on a separate charge of murder conspiracy.
The San Diego Rincon case ended disastrously for the outfit. Based on a federal wiretap investigation conducted by the FBI in cooperation with the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, a fifteen-count indictment was returned on January 9, 1992, against John Di Fronzo, Sam Carlisi, Don Angelini, Michael Caracci, Chris Petti and five others connected with the attempted incursion of organized crime into tribal gambling casinos and the shakedown of the five Las Vegas men; gambler Fred “Sarge” Ferris (now deceased), Los Angeles bookie Robert Veltry; gambler George Macey; Ross Lantiere of Los Angeles; and chef Joe Pignatello. One of the victims, Pignatello, came up with the cash in small installments and promised to sell his boat and take his child out of school in order to raise the balance. Fortunately for Mr. Pignatello, he escaped with his life and still stirs the gravy at his Vegas digs.
Don Angelini, a man of refinements and breeding, was convicted with DiFronzo, 64, on conspiracy and fraud charges stemming from the Rincon case this past March. The San Diego jury listened to hundreds of wire-tapped phone conversations where these ranking Chicago mob figures were simply referred to in codeword as “two guys.” Both men face prison terms of up to 20 – 30 years and fines in excess of $1 million with sentences to be handed down in late May.
The Joseph Ferriola street crew is out of commission. Much of the top leadership of the Chicago outfit, including DiFronzo, Angelini and Carlisi are either under to expecting indictment, in jail or awaiting sentencing. These are only temporary victories, because history shows that the Chicago crime family will always find the means necessary to regroup and replace imprisoned leadership. With billions of dollars in revenue coming from illegal bookmaking, narcotics, extortion, vice and money laundering, business will continue to flourish under a new and emerging generation of mob bosses who will be ready to take their turn at the helm; men in their thirties, forties and fifties whose names are known but still obscure. Their time is now at hand. The mob is in the throes of change.
For them, a new day is dawning and fresh opportunities loom just over the horizon: Legalized casino gambling in downtown Chicago. A little skim here, a little skim there. Corrupt a labor union or two. Grease a few politicians. Get to the right judge. Put a few cops on the job. Move right in and become a silent partner in the casinos, the food concessions and the disposal services.
For Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, the mob is at your service. Roll the dice. Serve them their food. Cart away their trash. Then, skim a little off the top. What’s a few million between wise guys?