Illinois Police & Sheriff’s News
Combined Counties Police Assn.
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Chicago Outfit Gambling Crew — 1995
From the IPSN Archives – Fall, 1995
Sports Betting Ring Busted Up by Feds
Jim Burns is leaving no stone unturned these days in his one-man war against organized crime and its criminal allies.
At a time when the major crime fighting organizations on the local and national level are re-directing their resources toward inner- city street crime fueled by gangs and drugs, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois once again has turned up the heat on the Chicago “outfit” and its associates, with another sweeping indictment, this one coming against fifteen independent gamblers who ran an illegal sports bookmaking operation in South Suburban Lemont and Mokena from the mid-1980s through April 1991. Prosecutors said that the service was utilized by bettors as far away as Champaign-Urbana.
“Sports bookmaking is driven by exorbitant profits and it feeds off of the demand of bettors who are hungry for action,” Burns explained at his press conference announcing the indictments. “Today’s indictment sends a message that we will continue to devote resources to exposing and prosecuting these operations.”
The three-count indictment accuses James J. Yario of Lemont and John J. “Cappy” Capodice of Delevan, Wisconsin with operating a betting service that relied on the latest up- to-date computer technology to clock bets on Major League baseball, professional and college basketball, football and horse racing.
None of the fifteen are new to this game by any stretch of the imagination. They are known to organized crime and gambling investigators in the city and county. Yario, according to one source speaking off the record, is a product of Taylor Street.
What they have done is capitalize on the weakness and instability of the Chicago outfit in the late 1980s and early 1990s; when senior leadership is either in prison or under federal scrutiny. The practice of collecting extortion money from independent contractors making book on the street invites video surveillance, hidden microphones, and waves of federal indictments. It is one reason why the Chicago outfit has been “laying in the weeds” concerning the vigorous enforcement of these taxes in recent months. Thus, lesser known entrepreneurs like Yario and Capodice troll the waters without fears of swift and violent reprisal.
“It is a situation similar to what we had prior to the early 1970s when Harry Aleman and “Butch” Petrocelli decided to get back into the collection business after several years of laying low,” according to one source.
The tax man was satisfied with the steady revenue stream coming from the bookmakers but the mangled bodies of deadbeat gamblers who had already begun showing up in trunks of cars parked at the airport proved disastrous for the long-term health of the outfit. Eventually the federal government stepped in and in the late 1980s, we witnessed the destruction of the Infelise street crew, the prosecution of ranking mob leaders, and chaos and disarray at the highest levels of the mob in Chicago. “Today its [street tax collection] not prevalent. It’s low key – almost in limbo,” our source adds.
As part of the scheme that netted $300,000 in wagers and total payoffs of $81,000 in a single month, Jimmy Yario allegedly made outgoing wagers known in the trade as “layoffs” in order to balance the money bet on each side of the particular event, thus reducing the amount of risk to the operation.
Capodice and Yario recruited bettors, established the rules and limits, and hired other bookies like 56-year-old Tommy Malloy of Worth and Ronald Kadlubowski of Des Plaines to accept wagers. Off-site wirerooms were set-up as needed. It was a sophisticated operation from the start. And all gambling debts were satisfied. “….I always hear bookmakers complain,” Yario told gambler Steven Nolfe, a partner in the operation, after Nolfe fell behind on his payments. “They always complain we got roasted, we got beat, we got beat….but they stay in the business cause they need the money.”
Next, the high-tech bookies implemented a voice mailbox system for the benefit of their clients who needed to know the latest “line” (a method of handicapping a particular event) and to accept bets over the phone. Donald R. Cusak, one of the fifteen defendants in the case, provided Yario with a spreadsheet program for his lap-top computer in order to run the operation more efficiently.
Customers were supplied with phone numbers, aliases, and secret codes in order to call in their bets knowing their confidentiality was assured. The business flourished for a period of six years or more until the F.B.I. (With on-going cooperation from the Du Page County Sheriff’s Police), raided the homes of Yario, Capodice, John Lamonica of Schiller, Park, William Lesniak, a Hinsdale resident, and John J. Sciaccotta of Hanover Park, and seized ledgers, business records, and Yario’s lap-top computer which revealed the full extent of the enterprise.
The next day Yario and Capodice pondered the dilemma they faced and wondered who the “rat” really was. James Yario approached Cusak and in cryptic language asked him if he had been contacted by the feds. “They may have been watching…..you know…watching or tapping the phone or something you know,” Cusak nervously replied.
Also named in the indictiment in addition to Yario and Capodice were Michael A. Alvarez, 40; Donald Cusak, 60; Ronald H. Antos of Palos Heights; Michael J. Grieco, 58; John Lanno, 58; Steven J. Nolfe, 41; Bernard Prestigiacomo, 62; Samuel Ventura, 82; John Sciaccotta, Jr., 57; Thomas Malloy, 56; Ronald Kadlubowski, 49; John Lamonica, 63; and William Lesniak, 41.
Though none of the 15 defendants are included on the latest organizational chart of Chicagoland mob figures, it seems clear by the language of the indictment that at least some of the members of the enterprise still paid lip service to the outfit by paying a street tax for the privilege of doing business – when it became necessary to do so.
In the Spring of 1991, Ronald Antos, owner of a Palos Hills travel agency refused to pay Jimmy Yario $6,900.00 from a winning “layoff” bet placed by Yario at one of the wirerooms because he had not paid his “street tax” and the proceeds from the bet would satisfy the debt. Antos, who denied any knowledge of the bookmaking operation to Special Agent Royden Rice of the F.B.I., provided Yario with telephone numbers to wirerooms and a secret-code number – “959” – in order to place “layoff” wagers.
The case against the fifteen gamblers is scheduled for trial before Federal Judge Charles Norgle of the U.S. District Court later this year. Thus far seven of the men have pleaded guilty to charges; and six have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the on-going investigation. The defendants face a maximum term of five years in prison on each count and possible fines of $250,000 on each count plus possible restitution.