Operation Family Secrets

Operation Family Secrets

Operation Family Secrets was an FBI investigation of mob related crimes in Chicago. According to the FBI it was one of the most successful investigations of organized crime done by the FBI ever.[1] The investigation and trial was accurately dubbed "Family Secrets" because of the betrayal within the Calabrese family. The son, Frank Calabrese, Jr., and brother, Nick Calabrese, of a Chicago Outfit mob hit man, Frank Calabrese, Sr. provided testimony that was instrumental to the success of Operation Family Secrets. The investigation led to indictments of 14 defendants affiliated with the Chicago Outfit, which has been one of the most prolific organized crime enterprises in the United States.[2] The most heinous of their crimes investigated were the 18 murders and one attempted murder that took place over the span between the years 1970 and 1986. All of the murders and 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 the city of Chicago that will have a significant effect on the operations of the Chicago Outfit, but it did not end the Outfit's reign in Chicago. The FBI and local law enforcement agencies will continue their efforts to eradicate organized crime in Chicago.[3]


Murder Table

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 Charlette 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 DuPage County, Illinois
September 14, 1986 Nicholas Calabrese and Frank Calabrese, Sr. John Fecarotta Chicago, Illinois

The Investigation

Frank, Jr.'s Letter to the FBI

The investigation began on July 27, 1998 when Frank Calabrese, Jr. wrote a letter to the FBI saying he wanted help put his father in jail. The letter was sent without warning from the federal correctional facility in Milan, Michigan where both Frank Jr. and Sr, were incarcerated since 1995 when four members of the Calabrese family had been sentenced for collecting juice loans and racketeering an auto repair business. In his 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] Frank Jr.'s letter read, "This is no game. I feel I have to help keep this sick man locked up forever."[6] Frank, Jr. and his father had rough patches in their relationship over the years. Frank, Jr. had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from his father which he blew away on a cocaine addiction and a bad business decision.[7] In the wake of his son's disloyalty, Frank Sr. allegedly forced a gun to his son's head and threatened to kill him.[8] This 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 for hard time. Frank Calabrese, Jr. volunteered to record conversations he had with his father while they were imprisoned. Frank Jr. wore a pair of headphones around his neck that the FBI fitted with hidden a microphone to record conversation between the father and son. It was not difficult for Frank Jr. to direct his conversations in the prison courtyard and recreational facilities with his father towards information that would benefit the FBI's quickly assembling investigation. Frank Sr. would tell his son in a bragging manner about criminal activities of his past.

Nick Calabrese's Cooperation 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. spoke nervously to his son about a pair of gloves that were mistakenly left on the scene of the Fecorotta murder by his brother Nick Calabrese. Frank Sr. knew the gloves were enough evidence to convict his brother for murder and he feared that his brother would turn on the Outfit in order to receive a lighter sentencing. The FBI took this information and reopened the unsolved Fecoratta case. Agents Bourgeois and Hartnett went to visit Nick Calabrese who 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, Nick's vulnerability became apparent. With his DNA matching that of the gloves used in the Fecarotta murder Nick Calabrese knew he was going down and was willing to betray the criminal organization he belonged to along with his brother. Nick cooperated 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 Trial

The FBI turned in a 43-page indictment that was created by the Family Secrets investigation in April 2005. Operation Family Secrets was unprecedented for the fact that it named the entire Chicago Outfit as a criminal enterprise. Assistant United States Attorneys T. Markus Funk, Mitchell Mars and John Scully would represent the United States in the case. After more than two years, in June 2007 the Family Secrets trial began. Judge James Zagel would hear 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.[9] For Calabrese Sr., James Marcello, Joseph “The Clown” Lombardo, Paul “The Indian” Schiro, and Anthony “Twan” Doyle who the five main defendants the trial ended on August 30. The five men were found guilty on all counts for conspiracy and criminal acts of racketeering. Of the other nine defendants six plead guilty, two died before trial (Frank Saladino and Michael Ricci), and lastly Frank "The German" Schweihs was too ill to stand trial.[10]


"Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 80; Frank Calabrese, Sr., 71; and James Marcello, 66, were all sentenced the maximum penalty of life in prison for their convictions which included murder.[11] After admitting his contribution in 14 murders, Nick Calabrese was sentenced to only 12 years in prison, a light punishment rewarded because of unprecedented cooperation. Anthony Doyle, 64, and Paul Schiro, 71, were the only defendants who were not convicted of murder. The Family Secrets trial was a spectacle that added to the reputation for mob history that the city of Chicago has held for a long time.


  1. ^ "Family Secrets of the Murderous Kind", www.fbi.gov, 10/01/2007, retrieved 10/29/2009
  2. ^ "United States Attorney Pat Fitzgerald's Press Release", www.justice.gov, 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", www.justice.gov, April 25, 2005, retrieved on 11/1/2009
  4. ^ The Third Superseding Indictment of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. NICHOLAS W. CALABRESE, et al., www.justice.gov, retrieved on 11/1/2009
  5. ^ Family Secrets by Jeff Cohen page 14
  6. ^ Family Secrets by Jeff Cohen page 14
  7. ^ Family Secrets by Jeff Cohen page 16
  8. ^ Family Secrets by Jeff Cohen page 14
  9. ^ "Family Secrets of the Murderous Kind", www.fbi.gov, 10/01/2007, retrieved 10/29/2009
  10. ^ "Family Secrets of the Murderous Kind", www.fbi.gov, 10/01/2007, retrieved 10/29/2009
  11. ^ "Operation Family Secrets Mob Trial Sentencing to Continue This Week", www.thechicagosyndicate.com, January 25, 2009, retrieved on 10/29/2009

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