In Operation Family Secrets, Frank Calabrese, Jr. reveals for the first time the outfit’s “made” ceremony and describes being put to work alongside his father and uncle in loan sharking, gambling, labor racketeering, and extortion. As members of the outfit, they plotted the slaying of a fellow gangster, committed the bombing murder of a trucking executive, the gangland execution of two mobsters—whose burial in an Indiana cornfield was reenacted in Martin Scorsese’s blockbuster film Casino—and numerous other hits.
The Calabrese Crew’s colossal earnings and extreme ruthlessness made them both a dreaded criminal gang and the object of an intense FBi inquiry. When Frank Jr., his father, and Uncle Nick are convicted on racketeering violations, “Junior” and “Senior” are sent to the same federal penitentiary in Michigan. It's there that Frank Jr. makes the life-changing decision to go straight. But he needs to keep his father behind bars in order to regain control of his life and save his family. So Frank Jr. makes a secret deal with prosecutors, and for six months—unmonitored and unprotected—he wears a wire as his father recounts decades of hideous crimes. Frank Jr.’s cooperation with the FBI for virtually no monetary gain or special privileges helped create the government’s “Operation Family Secrets” campaign against the Chicago outfit, which reopened eighteen unsolved murders, implicated twelve La Cosa Nostra soldiers and two outfit bosses, and became one of the largest organized crime cases in U.S. history.
Operation Family Secrets intimately portrays how organized crime rots a family from the inside out while detailing Frank Jr.’s deadly prison-yard mission, the FBI’s landmark investigation, and the U.S. attorney’s office’s daring prosecution of America’s most dangerous criminal organization.
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|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Keith and Kent Zimmerman have coauthored many New York Times and London Times bestselling books.
Paul Pompian, who has produced more than fifty motion pictures and television productions, was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and came by his interest in the outfit naturally.
Read an Excerpt
1. Family Secrets
I set myself up in the corner of the prison library at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, and banged out the letter to FBI Special Agent Thomas Bourgeois on a cranky old SmithCorona manual typewriter. My mobster father, Frank Calabrese, Sr.—who was serving time with me in FCI Milan—had taught me to be decisive. So when I typed the letter, my mind was made up.
I didn’t touch the paper directly. I used my winter gloves to handle the sheet and held the envelope with a Kleenex so as not to leave any fi ngerprints. The moment I mailed the letter on July 27, 1998, I knew I had crossed the line. Cooperating with the FBI meant not only that I would give up my father, but that I would have to implicate my uncle Nick for the murder of a Chicago Outfi t mobster named John “Big Stoop” Fecarotta. Giving up my uncle was the hardest part.
When I reread the letter one last time, I asked myself, What kind of son puts his father away for life? The Federal Bureau of Prisons had dealt me a cruel blow by sticking me in the same prison as my dad. It had become increasingly clear that his vow to “step away” from the Outfit after we both served our time was an empty promise.
“I feel I have to help you keep this sick man locked up forever,” I wrote in my letter.
Due to legal and safety concerns, it was five months before Agent Thomas Bourgeois arranged a visit to meet with me at FCI Milan. He came alone in the early winter of 1998. In 1997 the FBI and Chicago federal prosecutors had convicted the Calabrese crew, netting my father, Uncle Nick, my younger brother Kurt, and me on juice loans. Bourgeois seemed confused and wanted to know what I wanted.
I’m sure Bourgeois also wondered the same thing I had: What kind of son wants to put his father away for life? Maybe he thought I was lying. Perhaps I had gotten into an argument and, like most cons, was looking to get my sentence reduced. Yet in our ensuing conversation, I told Tom that I wasn’t asking for much in return. I just didn’t want to lose any of my time served, and I wanted a transfer out of FCI Milan once my mission was accomplished.
By imprisoning us on racketeering charges, the Feds thought that they had broken up the notorious Calabrese South Side crew. In reality they had barely scratched the surface. I alerted Bourgeois that I was not looking to break up the mob. I had one purpose: to help the FBI keep my father locked up forever so that he could get the psychological help he needed. The FBI didn’t know the half of his issues or his other crimes.
When asked by Bourgeois if I would wear a wire out on the prison yard, I promptly replied no. I would work with the FBI, but I would only give them intelligence, useful information they could use, and with the understanding that nobody would know I was cooperating, and I would not testify in open court. Outfit guys like my dad called that “dry beefing.” Frank Calabrese, Sr., was one of the Outfit’s most cunning criminals and had been a successful crew chief and solid earner for the Chicago mob for thirty years. He could smell an FBI informant a mile away. If he hadn’t talked about his criminal life in the past, why would he do so now?
I searched my soul to make sure I wasn’t doing this out of spite or because Dad had reneged on taking care of me and Kurt financially in exchange for doing time. This couldn’t be about money!
After Agent Bourgeois’s first interview with me at Milan, he reported back to Mitch Mars, an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Chief of the Chicago Organized Crime Section. Mars wanted to know if there was enough to present the case to a grand jury and gather a bigger, more inclusive case against “the Outfit,” Chicago’s multitentacled organized crime syndicate, which dated back to the days of “Big Jim” Colosimo and Al Capone.
As I lay in my cell bunk, I thought about my refusal to wear a wire. Suppose I gave the Feds information, but my father got lucky and walked? I’d be screwed, Uncle Nick would be stuck on death row, and after my dad’s sentence ran out he would bounce right back out on the streets to continue his juice loan business and murderous ways.
What if what I was doing was wrong? How could I live with myself? I loved my dad dearly, and I love him to this day. But I was repulsed by the violence and his controlling ways. I had to decide between doing nothing and cooperating with the Feds, two choices I hated.
I knew that if I did nothing, my father and I would have to settle our differences out on the street. One of us would end up dead, while the other would rot in prison. I would be incriminating myself, and I didn’t want an immunity deal. If I needed to do more time to keep my dad locked up forever, so be it. After I sent the letter, I was determined to finish what I started. I contacted Agent Bourgeois one more time to tell him I had changed my mind. I would wear the wire after all. All the deception my father had taught me I was now going to use on him.
My father’s own words would become his worst enemy.
Table of Contents
Cast of Characters vii
1 Family Secrets 1
2 The Patch, and Grand and Ogden 5
3 Who Wouldn't Love a Guy Like That? 17
4 Like Father, Like Son? 24
5 Fast with His Hands 29
6 The Art of Blending In 37
7 Outfit Reign of Terror 46
8 Frankie & Johnny's 56
9 A White Flash and a Burst of Heat 64
10 Keep Thinks in the Family 70
11 Philly Beans 75
12 The Boys Out West 80
13 Killing of the Zhivagos 87
14 Oh No, Not You! 97
15 How Bad Could It Be? 103
16 Scared Cow 109
17 Set Up for a Fall 114
18 Florida 122
19 I Took the Money 126
20 The Thousand-Yard Stare 132
21 Busted 141
22 College with Guns 152
23 The MCC 159
24 A Chance to Step Up 164
25 Two Choices, Neither One Good 169
26 The Moment I Sent It… 176
27 Scarpe Grande 182
28 The Wire 187
29 My Father's Executioner 199
30 Three Secret Lives 208
31 The Changing Streets 216
32 A Royal Pain in the…Back 224
33 Pandora's Box 231
34 Life on the Squad 237
35 The Terrible Towel 243
36 What Happened to My Father? 252
37 The Trial Stage 260
38 Broken Code 267
39 The Road to Justice 284
40 I Keep Thinking This Is a Dream 290
41 The Umbrella Effect 304
Epilogue: Behind the Picture Frame 313
What People are Saying About This
"An undeniably engaging tale, capturing the nitty-gritty of daily life in the 'crews' of the Outfit. A useful and readable addition to Mob Lit." -Kirkus