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Operation Family Secrets

Operation Family Secrets was an FBI investigation of mob related crimes in Chicago. The FBI called it one of the most successful investigations of organized crime that it had ever conducted.[1]

The investigation and trial was accurately dubbed "Family Secrets" because of the betrayal from within the Calabrese family. The son, Frank Calabrese, Jr., and brother, Nick Calabrese, of a Chicago Outfit mob hitman, Frank Calabrese Sr., provided testimony that was instrumental to the success of Operation Family Secrets. The investigation led to indictments of 14 defendants who were affiliated with the Chicago Outfit, which has been one of the most prolific organized crime enterprises in the US.[2]

The most heinous of their crimes investigated were 18 murders and one attempted murder between 1970 and 1986. All of the murders and the other crimes being charged to the defendants were allegedly committed to further the Outfit's illegal activities such as loansharking, bookmaking, and protecting the enterprise from law enforcement.

Operation Family Secrets was a milestone in the FBI's battle against organized crime in Chicago. It is said to have had a significant effect on the operations of the Chicago Outfit. However, it did not end the Outfit's reign in Chicago.[3]


The following list is of the murders committed as objectives of the Chicago Outfit that were investigated in Operation Family Secrets:[4]

Date of Murder Killer(s) Victim(s) Location of Murder
August, 1970 Frank Calabrese Sr. Michael "Hambone" Albergo Chicago, Illinois
September 27, 1974 Joseph Lombardo and Frank Schweihs Daniel Siefert Bensenville, Illinois
June 24, 1976 Frank Calabrese Sr. Paul Haggerty Chicago, Illinois
March 15, 1977 Frank Calabrese Sr. Henry Cosentino Chicago, Illinois
January 16, 1978 Frank Calabrese Sr. John Mendell Chicago, Illinois
January 31, 1978 Frank Calabrese Sr. Donald Renno and Vincent Moretti Cicero, Illinois
July 2, 1980 Frank Calabrese Sr. William Dauber and Charlotte Dauber Will County, Illinois
December 30, 1980 Frank Calabrese Sr. William Petrocelli Cicero, Illinois
June 24, 1981 Frank Calabrese Sr. Michael Cagnoni DuPage County, Illinois
September 13, 1981 James Marcello Nicholas D'Andrea Chicago Heights, Illinois
April 24, 1982 James Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr. Individual A Lake County, Illinois
July 23, 1983 Frank Calabrese Sr. Richard D. Ortiz and Arthur Morawski Cicero, Illinois
June 6, 1986 Frank Schweihs and Paul Schiro Emil Vaci Phoenix, Arizona
June 14, 1986 James Marcello Anthony Spilotro and Michael Spilotro Bensenville, Illinois
September 14, 1986 Nicholas Calabrese and Frank Calabrese Sr. John Fecarotta Chicago, Illinois


Frank Jr.'s letter to FBI

The investigation began on July 27, 1998 when Frank Calabrese, Jr., wrote a letter to the FBI saying he wanted help to put his father in jail. The letter was sent without warning from the federal correctional facility in Milan, Michigan, where both Frank Jr. and Frank Sr. had been incarcerated since 1995, when four members of the Calabrese family had been sentenced for collecting "juice loans" and racketeering an auto repair business. In the letter, Frank Jr. requested a face-to-face meeting in which he planned to give the FBI information about his father's crimes, business of the Chicago Outfit street crews and the murder of John Fecorotta:[5] "This is no game. I feel I have to help keep this sick man locked up forever."[5]

He and his father had had rough patches in their relationship over the years. He had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from his father, which he blew away on a cocaine addiction and bad business decisions.[6] Afterward, his father allegedly forced a gun to his son's head and threatened to kill him.[7] That and many other instances of Frank Sr.'s abuse and poor fathering of his sons contributed to Frank Jr.'s desire to help the FBI bring him down. He volunteered to record conversations that he had with his father while they were imprisoned. He wore a pair of headphones around his neck fit by the FBI with a hidden microphone to record conversation between the father and son.

It was not difficult for him to direct his conversations in the prison courtyard and recreational facilities with his father toward information that would benefit the FBI's quickly assembling investigation. Frank Sr. would brag to his son about past criminal activities.

Nick's co-operation with federal agents

Federal agents Michael Maseth, Tom Bourgeois, and Michael Hartnett were assigned to the investigation. They began to put together pieces of information on the Fecarotta murder. Frank Sr. had spoken nervously to his son about a pair of gloves mistakenly left on the scene of the Fecorotta murder by his brother, Nick Calabrese. Frank Sr. knew that the gloves were enough evidence to convict Nick for murder and feared that Nick would turn on the Outfit to receive a lighter sentencing. The FBI then reopened the unsolved Fecarotta case.

Agents Bourgeois and Hartnett went to visit Nick, whom they had put in jail a few years earlier, to pursue him as the suspect in the Fecarotta murder case. When the investigation team had a sample of DNA taken from Nick, his guilt became apparent. With his DNA matching that of the gloves used in the Fecarotta murder, Nick knew that he was going down and was willing to betray the criminal organization that he belonged to with his brother.

Nick co-operated with the FBI for months by giving depositions about the murders that he witnessed, took part in, and was told about. He also gave the government key information about how the Chicago Outfit operated.


The FBI, in April 2005, turned in a 43-page indictment that was created by the "Family Secrets" investigation.[8] "Family Secrets" was unprecedented for naming the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise. Assistant US Attorneys Mitchell Mars, John Scully, and T. Markus Funk would represent the United States in the case. After more than two years, the trial began in June 2007. Judge James Zagel heard the case.

The evidence was presented between June 28, 2007 and August 8, 2007. The trial included testimony from more than 125 witnesses and over 200 pieces of evidence.[1]

For Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, who were the five main defendants, the trial ended on August 30.

All five men were found guilty on all counts for conspiracy and criminal acts of racketeering. Of the other nine defendants, six pleaded guilty, two died before trial (Frank Saladino and Michael Ricci), and one (Frank "The German" Schweihs [sic]) was too ill to stand trial.[1] Calabrese Sr., was represented by Joe "the Shark" Lopez, who had been involved in many organized crime trials.


On September 10, 2007, Lombardo was convicted of racketeering, extortion, loan sharking and murder.[9] On September 27, 2007, the same jury found Lombardo guilty of the 1974 Seifert murder. In 2009, Lombardo, seated in a wheelchair, was sentenced to life in prison for the convictions.[10][11]

On February 5, 2009, Marcello was sentenced to life in prison for the Spilotro murders, and United States District Judge James Zagel, agreeing with the presentation made by federal prosecutor Markus Funk, also found Marcello responsible for the D'Andrea murder as well, even though the jury had deadlocked on that count.[12][13][14]

On January 28, 2009, Judge Zagel sentenced Frank Calabrese, then 71, to life in prison for his crimes and called the acts he had committed, "unspeakable".[15] On finding prosecutors had proven the murder allegations, the judge sentenced Calabrese for all 13 slayings.[16]

On March 26, 2009, Nick Calabrese was sentenced to 12 years and four months in prison, after several of his government cooperation.[13] Upon sentencing Calabrese, Zagel told him, "I think what you did does make amends by allowing penalties to be paid for the murders of others and for allowing families to know how and why their [loved ones] died." Calabrese had said, ""I can't go back and undo what I done... I stand before you a different man, a changed man."[17] Zagel doubts Calabrese will ever truly be free. No matter how long he lives or in what protected place it will be, Calabrese will always have to look over his shoulder. Zagel said, "The organization whose existence you testified to will not forgive or relent in their pursuit of you."[18]

Anthony Doyle, 64, and Paul Schiro, 71, were the only defendants who were not convicted of murder.


  1. ^ a b c "Family Secrets of the Murderous Kind", FBI, 10/01/2007, retrieved 10/29/2009
  2. ^ "United States Attorney Pat Fitzgerald's Press Release", April 25, 2005, retrieved on 11/1/2009
  3. ^ Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert D. Grant in "United States Attorney Pat Fitzgerald's Press Release", April 25, 2005, retrieved on 11/1/2009
  4. ^ The Third Superseding Indictment of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. NICHOLAS W. CALABRESE, et al.,, retrieved on 11/1/2009
  5. ^ a b Family Secrets, by Jeff Cohen p. 14
  6. ^ Family Secrets, by Jeff Cohen p. 16
  7. ^ Family Secrets, by Jeff Cohen, p. 14
  9. ^ "5 Men Found Guilty In Chicago Mob Trial".
  10. ^ Meisner, Jason. "Serving life sentence, ex-mobster Joey 'the Clown' Lombardo writes letter asking he be appointed a lawyer".
  11. ^ "Chicago Breaking News - Chicago Tribune".
  12. ^ Warmbir, Steve (February 5, 2009). "Ex mob boss sentenced to life in prison". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009.
  13. ^ a b "Chicago Breaking News - Chicago Tribune".
  14. ^ Warmbir, Steven (September 15, 2008). "Sentencing dates for Family Secrets 5". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008.
  15. ^ Coen, Jeff (January 29, 2009). "Mob hit man gets life in Family Secrets case". Chicago Tribune.
  16. ^ Warmbir, Steven (January 28, 2009). "Tomorrow's Calabrese sentencing story tonight". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009.
  17. ^ "Mob turncoat gets 12 years, 4 months - Chicago Breaking News". April 2, 2009.
  18. ^ "HE KILLED 14 PEOPLE. HE GOT 12 YEARS. - Chicago Tribune". September 28, 2018.