Lombardo was born on January 1, 1929, in Chicago, one of 11 children to Italian immigrants from Bari, Mike Lombardi, a butcher, and Carmela Lombardi. Lombardo, a high school dropout, at some point changed the final letter of his last name. He joined the Outfit in the 1950s.

In 2003, Chicago newspapers began reporting that federal investigators were looking into solving old mob murders. In 2003, the FBI swabbed Lombardo for DNA. Federal authorities also notified Lombardo during the probe that his life might be in danger. On April 25, 2005, Lombardo, along with 13 other defendants was indicted as part of the federal government’s Operation Family Secrets investigation, which lifted the veil on 18 killings since the 1970s that federal investigators had attributed to the Outfit. Lombardo was indicted for his role in at least one murder, as well as for running a racket based on illegal gambling, loan sharking and murder. As federal agents rounded up the 14 defendants on April 25, 2005, they realized that Lombardo had disappeared, who became a fugitive after they issued a federal arrest warrant.

While Lombardo’s whereabouts were unknown, he wrote letters to his lawyer, Rick Halprin—but directed toward the judge in the trial—in which he claimed to be innocent, requested a $50,000 recognizance bond, offered to take a lie detector test, and asked to be tried separately from the other defendants in the Family Secrets case—all requests that U.S. District Judge James Zagel denied. The first letter from Lombardo surfaced on May 4, 2005, was four pages long and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. “I am no part of a enterprise or racketering (sic)… Have no part in the poker machines, extorcinate loans, gambling and what ever else the indictment says,” the letter read. About the 18 murders in the indictment, I want you to know that I was not privy before the murders, during the murders, and after the murders, and to this present writing to you.” Lombardo also told Zagel in the letter, “I want you to know that I am not a violent man in anyway shape or form. I do not own or have any weapons of any kind. If the F.B.I. should find me I will come peacefully and no resistence (sic) at all.” Lombardo also asked Zagel “If you have any ideas or suggestion of what I should do, notify my lawyer he could reach me by the media.” In August and September 2005, Lombardo sent more letters to his attorney, indicating that he had been following local news coverage of a state hearing involving allegations that the mayor of Rosemont, IllinoisDonald Stephens, had met with several members of the Chicago Outfit. In response, Halprin quipped of his still-at-large client’s newspaper-reading habit: “I doubt that he has a home subscription.”