Maltese Trial Review/Analysis
The United States versus
Frank “Baldy” Maltese
June 18, 1993
When United States District Court Judge Ann Claire Williams sentenced Frank J. “Baldy” Maltese on charges of mob racketeering, she opened another door into the world of Mob and Hoodlum control of the Town of Cicero.
Maltese was not only the Town Assessor for Cicero (a position he secured with help from Illinois Secretary of State George Ryan) but he was also a foot soldier in the crime organization of the late Joe “Joe Nagall” Ferriola and his underboss, Ernest Rocco Infelise.
The Maltese case is especially significant in exposing corruption in Cicero because it detailed the extent that Maltese and Infelise were able to use the town’s resources to affect their criminal enterprise.
This is the First in a Special Series looking back at the five major convictions that exposed corruption in the Town of Cicero and opened the door to the impending downfall of Cicero’s Mafia Princess and Town President, Betty Maltese.
Frank Maltese pleaded guilty to Count 2 of an indictment charging him with illegal gambling conspiracy, one part of a far-reaching indictment.
Before Maltese could begin his 18 month sentence, however, he died a painful death, succumbing to pancreatic cancer in October, 1993, but only after he had made sure that the Infelise Crime Family’s financial interests could continue unhampered by the Town of Cicero.
Immediately upon his indictment, in 1991, Maltese moved to direct the Town of Cicero to appoint his wife, Betty Maltese, to take his place as Town Assessor. The purpose, observers believe, was to allow Betty Maltese to protect the financial interests and the remaining operation of the Infelise Crime Organization while Infelise, Maltese and others served their time in jail.
But, before the appointment could be made, a greater opportunity offered itself when then Town President Henry Klosak died. Immediately, his wife was named Town President. This gave Maltese greater powers to control continued investigations into the Infelise operation and to allow special financial provisions set up by Frank Maltese and Infelise to continue unhampered.
Betty Maltese always asserted that Frank had pleaded guilty to Count 2 of his indictment because “he didn’t have the money needed to fight the government.”
But, as it turned out, Maltese’s holdings were extensive, and on a salary of only $68,000, Maltese had managed to amass hundreds of thousands of dollars in holdings in properties and investments, most of which went to Betty Loren, his third wife, after his death. (All three of his wives were named Betty.)
Maltese, a small man who worked as a painter, and shared beers with friends at neighborhood pubs, was a nobody until one day he was asked to work for the powerful mob boss, Joe Ferriola.
“Baldy” or “Bones” as he was often called by his crime family friends, joined the Ferriola mob in the summer of 1986, working with Infelise as a bagman collecting money from an illegal gambling operation. “Bones” was also the code name for Maltese’s gambling operation.
“Baldy” worked with William “B.J.” Jahoda, who later turned out to be a FBI informant and witness who had recorded thousands of hours of tapes that were used to incriminate Maltese and the Infelise street crew.
Maltese immediately enlisted the help of his son, a well liked and popular kid who worked in the Cicero Fire Department. Although the son was never charged, the Maltese indictment said that his father forced him to help collect gambling debts and pay off the very few winning bets that were allowed.
With Infelise’s and Ferriola’s permission, bettors began placing bets with Maltese and his son. (In fact, when Maltese was finally brought to court, he tried to claim at one time that he never received any profits from the gambling, but instead gave all the profits to his son.)
Maltese earned 25 percent of his clients’ loses, and paid his winners from the pool of collected bets. Among those tabbed were not only notorious degenerate gamblers, but friends and employees he cultivated at Town Hall. Maltese paid the remaining balance to Infelise and sometimes to Flash Interstate Trucking owner Paul Spano on a weekly basis. Sometimes it was as much as $10,000 a week.
Maltese was able to join the Ferriola-Infelise operation because he had something to offer.
As Town Assessor, Maltese was close to the powers that controlled the Cicero Police Department.
(And Maltese was only able to become Town Assessor because Secretary of State George Ryan used his influence to allow Maltese to cut corners to meet the rigid and time consuming criteria required of anyone who wishes to hold the office of Township Assessor.)
And, he was able to take certain powers and place them in the hands of Infelise.
For example, Maltese was charged with tipping off Infelise whenever the Cicero Police Department was planning to launch raids on betting operations.
County Sheriff’s Police, unknowing of Maltese’s criminal ties, would tip off the Cicero Police, who in turn (usually unknowingly themselves) would tip off Cicero politicians about upcoming raids.
But, Maltese was also able to use his political strength to place control of the Town’s Liquor Control Commission in Infelise’s hands.
The assistant Deputy Liquor Control Commissioner was his longtime girlfriend and later his wife, Betty Loren. And, the Deputy Liquor Control Commissioner was Steve Bajovich, who was later convicted of taking kickbacks himself. (Klosak was the Liquor Control Commissioner.)
Today, Betty Maltese is not only the Town President, she is also the Town Liquor Control Commissioner, controlling the issuance of liquor licenses, and deciding which taverns are shut down for not contributing to her campaign fund, and which could remain open without facing citations for violating the Town’s various laws.
Prior to 1986, when Bajovich was placed under Infelise’s direct control, he had an “agreement” with Bucky Ortenzi, a close associate of convicted outfit boss Joseph “Doves” Auippa. Ortenzi paid Bajovich a monthly bribe in return for Ortenzi having the right to veto the issuance of a liquor license.
It’s hard to believe that Betty Loren (Frank’s common-law bride) did not know of these crimes.
For years, while Bajovich held the title of Deputy Liquor Control Commissioner, it was Betty Loren who controlled the office with the help of her closest friend, Joe Severino. (The title of Liquor Control Commissioner was always held by the Cicero Town President, but it was the deputy who did all the dirty street work.)
Like Betty Maltese, Severino is under investigation by the FBI.
Ortenzi had told Bajovich that if something happened to him, someone else from the Infelise organization would serve as liaison. Ortenzi died in late 1986.
Frank Maltese set up the meeting with Infelise and Bajovich after Ortenzi’s death to continue paying the bribes. Infelise gave Bajovich permission to solicit bribes from new liquor license applicants.
Those who did not pay the bribes did not receive their licenses. The license were vetoed by Ortenzi and later Infelise.
When Bajovich was convicted of income tax and other violations, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Frank’s wife Betty was named to take his place.
Maltese was also instrumental in efforts to bribe two Cook County Circuit Court Judges assigned to a criminal case against Jahoda.
In February 1988, Jahoda was arrested for operating a blackjack game.
The first judge assigned to the case was Christy Berkos, a former Cicero Town Attorney and later Cicero Town President.
Infelise told Jahoda, on tape, that he would “take care of it.”
Maltese met with Berkos and offered him a bribe to fix the Jahoda case.
Infelise met with Jahoda and Maltese in the summer of 1988 at the Mother’s Day Restaurant in Berwyn. Maltese said he had met Berkos at his spacious Cicero home at 38th Street and 61st Ct., where he offered a bribe to insure a not-guilty verdict.
According to Maltese, Berkos insisted that he be given two pre-paid round trip tickets for himself and his wife to spend two weeks in Hawaii.
Said Infelise, “If he takes care of us, we’ll send him there first class.”
Berkos claimed he never discussed any bribes with Maltese, but later recused himself from the case in early 1989. He said that he knew William Jahoda’s brother, Danny Jahoda. Why it took Berkos six months to remember that he knew Jahoda’s brother is a question that has never been answered.
This angered Infelise, who complained to Jahoda that Berkos’ law firm “used to have all of the insurance” for the Town of Cicero. Infelise also called Berkos a liar, claiming he knew Jahoda’s relatives when the case was first assigned to him and he never spoke out at the time. (Berko’s law firm handled the insurance claims filed against the Town by injured Cicero fire and police officers.)
Infelise vowed that he would mount a campaign against the retention of Berkos at the next election, implying he would use his control of the Cicero Organization and the Town’s politicians to get even.
Said Infelise, “He’s going to get retention, alright.”
The case was re-assigned to Judge Thomas Hett, who also recused himself because he, too, said he knew members of the Jahoda family. Hett had political interests in neighboring Berwyn with the Democrats there, and served as the former Mayor.
Maltese was a very close friend of Frank Belmonte, the Cicero Democratic Township Committeeman. Belmonte’s organization was in fact controlled by Maltese and the Cicero Republican Organization. He was also an administrative employee of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
In April, 1989, Maltese approached Belmonte and asked him to look into the case and Judge Hett. Could he be bribed?
Hett was approached by Belmonte the next day at Novi’s beef restaurant (owned by Hett’s wife) and asked about the Jahoda case. Hett recused himself immediately after that discussion took place.
Hett later told investigators he had been approached but he did not know at the time that the case had been re-assigned to him. He said he was aware of the Jahoda case, which was considered a “hot” case at 26th and California’s Criminal Courts building.
Jahoda told Infelise that Hett was to be paid $7,500 for taking care of the case. In fact, Maltese reported to Infelise that Hett had told Belmonte he wanted the payment.
Belmonte whined to the FBI that he had been badgered by Maltese to look into the case and talk with Judge Hett, but that he had never offered a bribe. Belmonte retired as Democratic Committeeman after Maltese died. He was replaced by Richard Caravetta, who was handpicked by Betty Maltese to head the Cicero Democratic Organization. Caravetta has continued to receive a salary from the Town of Cicero, although he has a full-time job with the Circuit Court of Cook County, too, and the Republican Organization secretly channeled funds to Caravetta.
When Jahoda’s case was assigned to a third judge, Infelise told Jahoda at the Andrea’s Restaurant that the judge would be taken care of by Pat Marcy, the secretary to the notorious Mob Dominated First Ward Organization of Chicago and Democratic Committeeman John D’Arco Sr.
The whole encounter with Judge Berkos, who is now retired but still a Cicero resident, explains Betty Maltese’s intense hatred of Berkos.
Maltese was nabbed because many of his conversations were on FBI telephone wire taps, and on tapes collected by Jahoda.
Although he portrayed himself as an innocent person, he in fact was willing to capitalize on the bad luck of others.
When another bookie turned up murdered by the Infelise crew, Maltese asked if he could takeover his gambling turf.
Frank Maltese was a short, portly fellow with a pleasant personality.
He was not a “tough” like some of the other members of the Ferriola-Infelise gang.
In fact, he was a push over, often publicly belittled by his wife, who is a viciously cruel individual.
Maltese used his influence to convince the remaining politicians in Cicero in Jan. 1993, that his wife would not be associated with his old mob friends.
Betty Maltese played the innocent, grieving wife, crying in public and begging friends to support her efforts to “reform” Cicero.
Between 1993 and 1996, several members of the Town Government had unveiled a number of community programs including the Youth Commission and the Adopt-A-Block program, and Betty immediately put her name to the programs.
Few people knew the extent of Betty’s involvement with members and associates of the Infelise Street Crew or Ed “The Godfather” Vrdolyak, [See Vrdolyak’s role in Silver Shovel] both of whom are now under intense FBI investigation.
Frank Maltese was a well liked man. His funeral procession to Hillside cemetary consisted of over 350 cars.
A testimonial to him given at his property at Lake of the Four Seasons in Indiana, now owned by his wife Betty, drew 300 people, and a stand-up comedy routine performed by Chicago comic Pat Capucci.
It also drew a gaggle of FBI agents who photographed the event using zoom lensed cameras from across the small lake.