He Not-so-glamorous Career of Chicago Hitman Gerald Scarpelli Revealed
From the IPSN Archives, Spring 1994
The Not-so-Glamorous Career of
Chicago Hitman Gerald Scarpelli Revealed
“It Was Just Business…”
by Richard Lindberg
On a lonely stretch of highway in rural Will County a syndicate “work car” swerved across the center line of traffic and weaved around a late model Lincoln, driving east-bound on the Manhattan-Monee Road away from downtown Joliet. Trailing the Lincoln was a cream- colored “pleasure” van driven by Gerald Hector Scarpelli. William “Butchie” Petrocelli. and as our sources tell us, Jerry Scalise – three members of the Joe Ferriola street crew headquartered in Cicero and the adjoining Western Suburbs .
It was a sticky July afternoon, and marked for death was one William Dauber, a seasoned “wise guy” who had wreaked a virtual reign of terror over South Suburban “chop shop” operators. Billy Dauber was a close associate of the late Jimmy “the Bomber” Catuara when the ambitious Catuara muscled in on gambling and nightclub operations In the south end of Cook County, In between well-earned jail terms, hot-tempered Dauber garnered a substantive piece of the chop shop and automobile salvage operations on behalf of Chicago Heights chieftain Albert Tocco, who ruled the South Suburban racket following Catuara’s murder in 1978.
The grisly nature of the chop shop business In the late 1970s was underscored by 14 unsolved murders of individuals linked to this most lucrative enterprise. Several of these killings were linked to Dauber who was to eventually find himself outside the mob’s good graces, and especially with “Butch” Petrocelli and Jerry Scalise, a thief with a proclivity for jewelry. Scalise who had traveled to merry old England and snatched the famed Marlborough Diamond several years earlier from a British arcade, reportedly wanted to “ice” Dauber. His objective was to force the other salvage yard owners In the South Suburbs to begin paying a street tax directly to the Outfit. Indeed, Dauber and his attractive, but loose-lipped wife Charlotte had much to fear from their one-time associates. Charlotte Dauber had been shooting her mouth off and was bitterly complaining that her husband’s bosses did not properly appreciate his value to the mob as a feared enforcer.
For over a two-month period one James “Duke” Basile, a member of the crew assigned to tasks that generally did not require gun play or excessive violence, staked out the Dauber domain and attended to “preparations. ” Basile, who always seemed to shy away from the “heavy work” that is the stock and trade of the Chicago mob muscle, reported his findings to fellow travelers Scarpelli and Petrocelli on a daily basis at designated local restaurants. “Dukie doesn’t have the balls to kill anybody” Scarpelli once commented and thus the job was to be carried out by someone who did.
The hit was a go but no decisive action was to be under taken until further information was developed concerning Dauber’s movements: his dally agenda and routines. When a syndicate hit is to go down nothing should be left to chance. The boys want all bases covered to assure an efficient murder and In the past couple of decades major foul-ups on important hit jobs were occurring far too frequently.
Besides displeasing his Outfit acquaintances it was Billy Dauber’s other great misfortune that a secretary’s carelessness left open to public view upon her desk sensitive documents that should end up costing him his life.
Gerry Scarpelli’s partner, long-time friend, and confidante Jerry Scallse, advised him that he had spied a notation conspicuously placed on the typist’s desk In the law firm representing Dauber. The memorandum revealed that Dauber was scheduled to appear with his attorney in the Will County Court on that July afternoon. The date and the time was duly noted. The plan for dauber’s demise was concocted.
On the day the double murder was to take place the alleged hitmen, Scarpelli, Scalise, Petrocelli, and Calabrese parked their van near the court house. They watched and waited and in due time, the Judicial proceedings ended and the Daubers appeared on the front steps of the courthouse with their legal counsel. The “wise guys” all sat together in the van and waited for the attorney to bid adieu to his doomed clients before anything was to be done. The lawyer accompanied the Daubers to a local donut shop and was the last one to speak to the couple before they were violently dispatched to another world.
After a brief period of coffee and conversation, the barrister departed as Charlotte and Billy got In their Lincoln and drove off to their fate. When the road seemed clear Frank Calabrese swung the “work car” directly in front of the Dauber vehicle, at which point the van driven by Scalise pulled up along side the Lincoln. Butchie Petrocelli pointed a .30-caliber semi- automatic carbine out the window of the van and fired a volley directly at Dauber. Just in case Butch missed the mark, Gerry Scarpelli took aim with a 12 gauge shotgun.
Dauber, who was secretly cooperating with the government since his arrest on cocaine and gun charges the previous year, lost control of his car (and undoubtedly his blood pressure) and crashed Into a tree off the main highway. Petrocelli immediately ordered the van stopped In order for Scarpelli to inspect and apply the final touches of death if need be. “Go make sure it’s done – finish it!” came the brutal directive.
Gerry Scarpelli, whose rap sheet Included 18 arrests since he was picked up for the first time in 1960, covered his face with a ski mask and walked slowly toward the bullet-pierced wreck. The Daubers were lying motionless in the car – their bodies riddled with gunshot. Scarpelli pumped two shots Into Billy Dauber’s head, but did not bother with Charlotte – mob etiquette being what It Is. Besides, Bllly’s talkative wife was already dead anyway.
The van was taken to a remote spot further down the road and driven into a clump of bushes. Petrocelli doused the vehicle with lighter fluid and set It on fire In order to destroy the physical evidence and any traces of fingerprints. The murder weapons were completely dismantled, chopped Into small pieces and disposed of in the Cal Sag Canal from the Route 83 bridge. Nothing more was said of the grisly crime that had just been committed except for the usual massive media coverage – and neither Scarpelli nor his associates received any monies from the Outfit for their work. No payment. No big money coming their way for the hit. Thank yous are not the custom of mob bosses.
“It was just business,” Scarpelli later explained.
The F.B.I. and local mob watchers had their theories about who killed the Daubers and why, but the Dauber hit remained officially unsolved until which time law enforcement agents pieced together a case against Gerry Scarpelli and finally convinced him that It would be in his “best interests” if he cooperated with the U.S. Department of Justice. The “Little Guy,” as Scarpelli was known to his associates, readily agreed that much of the day to day life of the organized crime business Is a Hollywood myth. He decided to relieve his mind of criminal activities and unloaded the nefarious ways of his chosen lifelong criminal career. His was an interesting story.
Mob work Is perceived to be an upbeat, glamorous dream factory. This farcical image was conjured up by Imaginative fiction writers, crime buffs, news media story tellers, and movie producers eager to cash in on the “Godfather” mystique, connoting time-honored ancient Sicilian customs, of a close knit, highly stratified, well-disciplined organization based on oaths of blood loyalty is usually portrayed as an extravagant, fast-moving lifestyle. But such a life had evaded the likes of one Gerald Hector Scarpelli and his life-long wise-guys pals. Gerry was a 51-year-old lifelong “wannabe” who was perceived differently by those who knew him as opposed to the law enforcement “Mafia” watchers in the media and the rest of the court room buffs. Being a “wise guy” is dreary work of a time consuming nature coupled with a lot of role playing; hanging out and talking tough mostly.
For years Gerry Scarpelli a product of Chicago’s ethnic Italian-American Taylor Street neighborhood on the Near West Side where his dad ran a bakery at Kedzie and Flournoy Avenues, existed on the periphery of things – a known game player with more than a few inside connections. These connections along with his other endeavors failed to provide him with a standard of living one might normally expect from a proficient and seasoned syndicate street man, assassin and armed robber who was particularly adept at knocking over Brink’s armored trucks. This is the lurid perception of the highly-paid gang assassins. Such was not the case for Gerry.
The fact is that Scarpelli had a tough time paying his monthly bills and just making life’s day to day ends meet. He desperately wanted to open an automobile salvage yard but his plan was doomed to failure because of his criminal past. He knew he would never be able to obtain the proper license from the Secretary of State’s office.. An ex-con with a checkered past often finds the door of opportunity slammed shut on his ambitions. Even if he had achieved this dream he would have probably moved quickly into a chop shop operation – his moral fiber being what It was.
Instead of fulfilling his dream, Gerry Scarpelli Invested $13,000 of his ill-gotten life savings and opened a Woodridge boutique known as “Bangles & Beads.” For this endeavor, Scarpelli optimistically entered-into a partnership with, of all people, a Berwyn Police officer he knew, and his ex-wife s sister.
But-the monthly revenues “the nut,” failed to equal the normal rental payments assessed this entrepreneurial trio. The business failed after only a short period of time. He lived in his girlfriend’s place because he didn’t own a home. He was forced to rely on his brother Daniel, owner of the Bulk Commodity Transport Company. to provide him with some legitimate employment to try to make ends meet.
“It’s not much of a job,” Scarpelli commented to law enforcement officers. You see, Gerry had now done the unthinkable for wise guys and agreed to become a government informant. He had displeased his boss, Rocco Infelice, by disobeying an order not to participate in any more of his unauthorized and possibly troublesome bread and butter “scores.”
Gerry Scarpelli had scaled the heights (however modestly) during the brief but violent reign of the late monlckered “Nagall” -Joe Ferriola that Is – head juice collector and gambling boss of the suburban crescent region. The “crew” he belonged to included such seasoned mob members as Rocco Infelice, Don Angelini, Dominick Cortina. Salvatore Cautedella, Louis Pannos, Jimmy Inendino, Lou Marino, Bobby Salerno, Mike Sarno, Butchie Petrocelli (until he was tortured and murdered), Duke Basile, and Solly DeLaurentls, among others. All these gentlemen were the primary focus in recent prominent federal trials.
The murder of Billy Dauber strengthened intense federal scrutiny on the operations of the Chicago mob guys and particularly the activities of the Ferriola-lnfelice crew as it related to the chop shop racket and gambling operations. Concerned about an impending federal investigation into the Dauber murder and other n’er-do-well “hits” including the murder of former
Chicago Police commander Mark Thanasouras who was on the “take” all the while he served in the Austin Police District, Gerry Scarpelli’s henchman Joseph Jerome “Jerry” Scalise decamped for Europe in the company of Arthur “the Genius” Rachel, a convicted robber
and suspected counterfeiter. Scalise, who is known to wear an artificial arm to disguise a hand that is minus three fingers during “working hours,” informed Scarpelli at the time that he had “a few good scores” lined up across the pond. And he wasn’t kidding.
Scalise and Rachel journeyed to merry old London, where, with skill and aplomb, they broke into Graff’s Jewelry Store in the fashionable Knightsbridge section of that historic city armed with a revolver and a hand-grenade. Such armaments are almost unknown to the London constabulary but it is ordinary equipment for Chicago “wise guys.” By Cook County standards however, they were underarmed. The score: the famed Marlborough Diamond. once the property of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and valued at a cool $960,000.
While five employees and two customers were requested to spread out on the floor, the veteran Chicago jewel thieves removed 20 precious stones from the display cases. The total Valium of the stolen property exceeded $3.6 million. Store employees attempted to give chase to the fleeing gunmen but they were lost in the heavy traffic.. Detectives from Scotland Yard identified the getaway vehicle as being registered to a London car rental agency and were able to trace Scalise’s movements to Heathrow Airport where a return night to Chicago aboard a British Airways Bight had already been booked.
F.B.I. agents were on hand to greet the pair at O’Hare Airport the next day. Scalise and Rachel were immediately taken into custody but the 45-carat Marlborough Diamond was not located among their possessions.
Gerry Scarpelli stated that it was his understanding that Scalise had mailed the fabled diamond to his sister in New York before boarding his flight. It was later established that a London cabdriver had mailed a “small package” at the behest of the two thieves. The Chicago outfit conducted its own “internal investigation” into the matter – Butch Petrocelli searched Scalise’s residence in Hinsdale for the rock be came up empty handed. The trail of the diamond was cold.
Art Rachel and Jerry Scalise were extradited back to London England where they were tried, convicted, and each sentenced to 15 years in prison Both men served 10 years of their sentence and kept their mouths shut The Marlborough Diamond, if it hasn’t already been cut up and sold, has never been recovered.
He is now out of prison, back in the old home town where he enjoys hi status. and is once again making news in January 1994, Scalise was arrested in the 1100 block of West Taylor Street along with Robert J. Pulli, (who was recently named in a Florida, armed robbery indictment with 13 other suspects), and Anthony Aleman brother of the notorious Outfit assassin Harry “the Hook” Aleman (a nephew of Joe Ferriola) who was acquitted for the 1972 murder of Teamster union steward William P. Logan.
Attorney Robert Cooley bragged that he paid trial Judge Frank Wilson, $10,000 to acquit Harry Aleman after the government presented what appeared to be an air-tight case. The dishonored jurist committed suicide when the shocking disclosures came to light during the “Operation Gambat’ prosecution of 1st Ward Judicial and political figures.
And one must wonder what Scalise, Pullia, and Anthony Aleman were really up to when they were picker up on West Taylor Street in their “working clothes” (dark pull-over sweaters and blue jeans). Burglary tools contained in a black bag were found in the trunk of their car which prompted the arresting officers to haul the three of them down to Intelligence headquarters at the Maxwell Street Station for processing. Aleman was later released. Pullia and Scalise were charged with felony possession of burglary tools.
Anonymous sources told the Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News that the Chicago Police didn’t have much to work with here – the Taylor street pinch was characterized as a nickel and dime “harassment arrest” in order to see what these guys were cooking up.
This renewed interest in Jerry Scalise augers well for the clever little thief, at least from the public relations side of things. Reportedly Scalise is preparing to write his memoirs with Los Angeles attorney Anthony Pellicano, himself a Cook County native. Scalise and Rachel undoubtedly hope to cash in with a lucrative movie offer from a Hollywood studio. The 1990 motion picture Good Fellas brought instant fame and recognition to one Henry Hill, an otherwise obscure criminal associate of New York’s Lucchese crime family. Scalise and Scarpelli’s Cook County escapades are very similar to those of Mr. Hill and the New York crew he was aligned with. It will be Interesting to see how the writers of the Scalise saga will interpret the other notable Incidences from the lengthy Scarpelli Dossier – shakedowns, intimidation – contract murder.
Before his self-imposed death, Gerry Scarpelli told much about the inner workings of the Outfit. It is now known that the supposedly “all-powerful” Chicago mob must rely on the abilities of its thieving associates like Scalise and Scarpelli in order to procure something as simple as an automatic weapon -which the average 16-year-old West Side gangbanger seems to be able to locate with ease. Butch Petrocelli and Ernie “Butch” Severino (South Side cocaine dealer, Butch Petrocelli’s driver, and a lieutenant in the Ferriola crew presently “on the lam”), obtained weapons for the crew from various sources. Bell’s Gun Shop in West Suburban Franklin Park was burglarized on at least one occasion and the guns were secreted in two North Side “safe houses.”
Gerald Scarpelli’s “equipment bag” contained the essential tools of his trade – a radio scanner, walkie-talkie, handcuffs, Halloween face masks, automatic pistols, revolvers, and a MAC 10 submachine gun provided by Butchie Petrocelli following his “after hours” visits to local gun emporiums. The duffel bag containing many of these items were eventually recovered by law enforcement officers from a stolen Chevy warehoused inside Champion Liquidators on West LeMoyne Avenue.
Clandestine F.B.I. photographs and videotapes were taken of Scarpelli and Dukie Basile in Michigan City as they carried out a residential burglary. The Michigan City heist led to Scarpelli’s arrest and eventual promise to cooperate with the Department of Justice. During the course of this particular burglary, Scarpelli was observed carrying the MAC-10 with him. The weapon was later tossed into the water at 33rd and California Avenue.
In recent years the various street crews have gotten away from the traditional money making venues. Scarpelli revealed that loan sharking activities are way down from what they used to be. There are few active Juice’ accounts left, and no further “loans’ can be given out without the express permission of the bosses. The activities of the Ferriola-lnfelice crew primarily involved the collection of delinquent “street taxes” from independent bookmakers, and murder to insure that tariffs were paid. Very often the identity of an intended “hit” victim was not known to Scarpelli – but that did not trouble his conscience in the least because “it was just business…that’s all.”
Eight murders are attributed to Gerry Scarpelli since his first “hit” he admitted complicity to shortly before he died. This involved George Christofalos a.k.a”George Lardas,” owner of the L & L Nightclub, an after-hours road house located on Route 41 in North Chicago. Christofalos had Incurred the enmity of one John Anthony “Tony Bors” Borselllno. a ranking member of the Chicago organized crime family who had been “working on something in Lake County and had “to move this guy out of the way,” according to Scarpelli’s recollections.
Tony Borsellino had done all of his own “leg work. a He knew that Christofalos would likely be leaving his strip club at 4: 00 a.m. Scarpelli tells the story that he and Scalise, the two trusted associates, drove the “work car” a two-door Mercury coupe picked up in Chicago earlier that afternoon to North Chicago where they waited in the parking lot for 40 minutes.
They watched and waited for Christofalos to emerge from the club. Oblivious to the present dangers of the moment the Greek nightclub owner walked slowly toward his Cadillac and to his destiny as a mangled, and bloody hulk in the parking lot. Jerry Scalise Inched the syndicate work car backwards in the parking lot toward the Caddy. Gerry Scarpelli cradled his shotgun in anticipation.
Scarpelli relates that he and Borsellino got out of their car and approached the victim. Their faces were shielded by ski masks. At that moment two nightclub patrons exited the front door. Scarpelli whirled around and pointed the 12 gauge shotgun directly in their direction and advised them not to move. Borsellino, now able to complete the job without pedestrian Interference, then fired two shotgun blasts through the driver’ s side window.
The Christofalos murder was an “Outfit hit.” meaning that the bosses (Joe Ferriola and James “Turk” Torello, now deceased) had sanctioned and authorized the “work” to be performed that night. Scarpelli stated that this was the first syndicate murder he was directly involved in, but neither he, nor Borsellino, nor Scalise received any money for the job, commenting that “it was lust business…”
The boys in the crew engaged in a lot of “business” during their salad days. The Michael Oliver hit was another Outfit masterpiece that stymied investigators until Scarpelli filled in the blanks. Oliver, a long-time friend and associate of Bobby Salerno, operated a pornographic book store in Elk Grove Village that was in direct competition with another such establishment owned by one Vito Caliendo who enjoyed close ties to Butch Petrocelli. According to Scarpelli he accompanied Salerno, Salvatore Cautedella, Scalise, and Mike Sarno when they entered the store one night with the intention of “wrecking the joint” and thereby imposing an economic hardship that would prevent later claim that neither he nor his associates intended to whack Oliver but someone…he wasn’t sure just who it was…had a gun.
Armed with baseball bats; their faces concealed by ski masks. the crew entered the store and began pulling down the racks of magazines and paperbacks. The two or three patrons who lingered inside the building were locked inside a video booth for “safe keeping.” Meanwhile, the merchandise was piled into the crew’s van when suddenly a gunshot rang out from inside the store. Mike Oliver was shot in the chest and died instantly. Who shot Oliver? No-one stepped forward to claim responsibility. And as the boys in the crew debated among themselves what course of action should next be taken, the body of Mike Oliver was already beginning to get stiff. They loaded Oliver into the van.
Borrowing a page from a similar episode graphically depicted in Good Fellas, the Martin Scorcese-directed Hollywood film, Scarpelli and his pals decided among themselves to go get something to eat and then talk over the unexpected developments while the corpse moldered in the rear of their vehicle. Contract murder conjures up a healthy appetite it would seem.
Scarpelli said that Jerry Scalise suggested that a grave be dug in a wooded field located near the intersection of Route 83 and Bluff Road in DuPage County not far from Scalise’ residence. Scarpelli and Salerno went forth and dug a shallow grave and the remains of Oliver with a cache of pornographic material from the store were covered over with dirt. The grave remained undisturbed until the FBI Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) dug far and wide and discovered the remains much later.
Rocky Infelice was not pleased with what had transpired at the Elk Grove Village book store. Scarpelli tried to explain that a patron who had been lurking inside the store killed Mike Oliver and the identity of that person was not known.”‘Whose idea was it to wreck the store?” Infelice demanded. Scarpelli. his voice lowering, replied that it was Butch Petrocelli. Infelice shook his head and said nothing. Later, Petrocelli sent an associate back to the book store to ignite an explosive charge and obliterate what was left of the building. And as usual, Scarpelli received no fee or honorarium for his services. “It was just business…all In a day’s work.”
Infelice’s growing displeasure with Scarpelli over his refusal to abide by an edict to lay low and “not steal,” convinced Gerald Scarpelli to cooperate with the government investigators. Wire tapped conversations between informant Dukie Basile and Scarpelli in which the ways and means of syndicate assassination were discussed helped “turn” Gerald Hector Scarpelli – the not-so-wise guy who was unable to siphon a decent income from his outfit endeavors In order to live the good life. “I never thought he (Basile) had the balls.” Scarpelli bitterly complained.
With a record of 18 arrests and three prison terms staring him in the face, Scarpelli hoped to cut a favorable deal before Federal Judge Milton Shadur whereby Scarpelli would be released in return for his continuing cooperation with the federal prosecutorial effort.
Just two days before Judge Shadur was to rule on a defense motion to suppress all evidence relating to the robbery Indictments Including videotaped statements to federal agents, Scarpelli asphyxiated himself in the changing area adjacent to a shower stall at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. He had been awaiting trial for 9 � months. Now he was dead, and by his own hands. His fast exit from the world was a legit action of his own doing; an end “to business.”
Another inmate waiting patiently outside the shower room for Scarpelli to finish his bath complained that Scarpelli was taking too long to cleanse himself. The guard banged on the door and still there was no response. When the door was opened they found the lifeless body of Gerald Scarpelli. Three plastic bags were wrapped around his head and two bed sheets secured to the neck and ankles. Why he did himself in is purely speculative – but one theory put forth is almost laughable.
“He was a proud man who came from a good family and didn’t want to tarnish his family’s reputation,” alibied attorney Jeffrey Stelnback. Gerald Scarpelli’s ignominious suicide at the Metropolitan Correctional Center was a perfect reflection of the dreary aspects of his entire career in organized crime. His entire career offers convincing proof that the life of a gangster is not always one for the movies – though the other Jerry – Jerry Scalise -would likely disagree.
The mastermind of the Marlborough Diamond heist is free and clear at a time when the Outfit is in turmoil. Much of the Chicago Heights crew, which Scarpelli and Scalise owed allegiance to, are either in jail or out of commission. The word on the street is that Chinatown, 26th Street, and the Cicero crews have coalesced under a new boss -John Monteleone. The Grand Avenue crew, which John “No Nose” DiFronzo commanded until prison caught up with him, Is slowly coming apart.
Jerry Scalise is 56-years old now. The precise role he is to play in the changing order is yet to be determined, though we have it on good authority that Scalise underwent a religious experience while doing his time In the British prison. Reportedly he has expressed the desire to become a monk someday.