The crime family in Chicago, generally known as the "Outfit", has a long, interesting and quite successful history. It has ruled organized crime in the city and the surrounding area since roughly the end of Prohibition. Prior to that point, there were various competing gangs or individuals involved in bootlegging and other activities. This history will cover where the Outfit came from, how it was formed and how it has evolved over time, including its successes and setbacks and its major business activities, since its primary goal is to enrich its members.
The story of the Outfit begins with James "Big Jim" Colosimo. Before Colosimo, organized crime in Chicago was small in scale and specialized. One group of people controlled individual labor unions. Another group was active in gambling. A third crowd was involved in prostitution. But the twain rarely, if ever, met. From modest beginnings in the 1890s, Colosimo, who was involved in vice, gambling and labor racketeering, became Chicago’s most powerful gangster during the period before Prohibition. He had superb political connections, first serving as a precinct captain in the organization of First Ward Aldermen Coughlin and Kenna and later becoming their bagman in the vice filled Levee district, which provided him with excellent political protection.
As his empire grew, so did his gang. By the mid-1910s Colosimo commanded Chicago’s largest and strongest group of racketeers, including second in command John Torrio, who arrived from New York around 1909. This was a multi-ethnic group, with Italian, Jewish, Irish, Greek and other members. Colosimo’s gang is the lineal ancestor of the Capone gang and the later Outfit. Al Capone himself having come to Chicago around 1919 to join Colosimo and Torrio and to escape trouble in Brooklyn,
Jim Colosimo seemed reluctant to pursue the rich opportunities in the liquor trade that Prohibition offered. When he returned from his honeymoon in May 1920 he was shot and killed in his café, most probably by New York gangster Frankie Yale under contract from John Torrio. Certainly, there are no hints of conflicts with other gangs at the time or reprisals carried out by Torrio et al., indicating that his own associates decided that Big Jim, who stood in the way of millions of dollars of wealth, had to go.
The far-sighted Torrio took over what Colosimo had built and used it as the foundation for a bootlegging empire. He is credited with calling together the other major local gangs and forging them into a cartel that divided up the liquor business in the city in order to bring stability and maximum profitability to bootlegging. Each gang had a geographic area allocated to it and had the sole right, as agreed to by the cartel members, to sell beer and hard liquor in that area. The other major gangs in Chicago at the time included the North Siders (generally east of the north branch of the Chicago River), led by Dion O’Banion, the Guilfoyle gang (North Side west of the river), the Gennas in Little Italy (around Taylor Street), the West Side O’Donnells (on the heavily Irish West Side), the Druggan-Lake gang (on the Near Southwest Side), the Saltis-McErlane gang (by the stockyards) and the Sheldon gang (in the South Side Irish belt, just east of Saltis and McErlane).
Torrio quickly gained an interest in several breweries, which gave him a reliable source of beer. He also further expanded into the suburbs, building on Colosimo’s introduction of brothels there around World War I, and later (in an operation directed by Capone) took over Cicero. His was the largest area in the cartel arrangement, covering the South Side (roughly the part of the city south of Madison street and east of the current Dan Ryan expressway, with the exception of the district in the middle controlled by Ralph Sheldon), and various suburbs south and west of the city.
Like all cartel agreements it faced trouble from without and from within. In the first case, people not included in the cartel naturally wanted to get a piece of the highly profitable pie. The first interloper was "Spike" O’Donnell, leader of the South Side O’Donnell gang, who tried to break into the Sheldon and Saltis-McErlane provinces in 1923. An inter-gang crew of gunmen from the "Combination" shot up the O’Donnell boys until they retreated back to 63rd Street.
The second problem was a much more difficult one. The group’s profits would be the largest if everyone stuck to the agreement and stayed in their area. But any one gang could increase its profits by cheating on the agreement and entering the territory of its neighbors. Friction between the Gennas and the O’Banion gang, which was perhaps natural given the large Sicilian neighborhood along Division Street in the heart of the O’Banion area, sparked a general problem between the largely non-Italian North Siders and the various Italians. This led to the killing of O’Banion in November 1924, probably by Frankie Yale and two Genna gunmen, igniting the Prohibition Era gang wars.
The Sheldon gang, the Gennas, Druggan and Lake, Guilfoyle and the (later on the scene) Circus Gang were Torrio-Capone allies. The South Suburbs, centered around the Mecca of illegal stills, Chicago Heights, lined up with Capone in 1926 after he helped the non-Sicilian gangsters there gain control from the local Sicilian gang. The Chicago Heights guys controlled Joliet as well as most of the area east of Indiana and south of Chicago. The North Siders were allied with various gangsters in the Northern suburbs and on the far Northwest side and had sometime allies in the West Side O’Donnells and the Saltis-McErlane gang. The Saltis crowd, and the South Side O’Donnells, were, however, mostly independent.
Torrio, after being shot by avenging North Side gunmen in January 1925, left Chicago in March of that year. Al Capone succeeded him, taking over Chicago’s largest gang during a violent shooting war. The first ones to surrender were the Gennas, after their leadership was wiped out by the North Siders under Hymie Weiss that same year. The Gennas’ rackets, including the Unione Siciliana, were quickly taken over by Capone who had his man Tony Lombardo installed as Unione president. In 1926 the West Side O’Donnells and Capone mob collided over liquor sales in Cicero, with the West Siders quickly capitulating and being amalgamated into the Capone gang. As time went on, the Sheldon gang, led by Danny Stanton after Ralph Sheldon left town, became more closely linked with Capone as well.
The gang wars continued for several years, with the North Siders losing Hymie Weiss in October 1926 to gangland bullets and Vincent "Schemer" Drucci to a policeman’s gun. George "Bugs" Moran became leader of the North Side gang, with allies such as gamblers Barney Bertsche, Billy Skidmore and William Johnson, vice czar Jack Zuta and the Aiello Brothers, who ran the Sicilian rackets from their Division Street base after Lombardo’s death. In terms of the number of killings, the gang wars in Chicago reached their height in 1926. Little changed on the territorial map overall, though, until after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.
The death of six Moran men (and the optometrist, Dr. Schwimmer) in the garage on North Clark Street, and the killing of Zuta and Joe Aiello by Capone gunmen in 1930, was followed by the Capone takeover of the North Side in 1931. Not long thereafter Capone moved in on Moran’s allies on the Northwest Side and in the Northern suburbs, including Roger Touhy. At that point the gang wars were over, with bootlegging in Chicago and the vicinity controlled by the "Capone" (Al himself having a bit of trouble filling out his income tax returns) gang or their allies.
While they fought over the alcohol trade, Capone’s gang was moving heavily, probably in anticipation of the end of Prohibition, into other rackets. These included labor unions, gambling and business racketeering. Also, the Capone gang’s activities, even before it won control of Chicago, spread beyond the city. Unlike beer, which was fully ready for consumption only days after brewing, many hard liquors improve with aging. Therefore, quality alcohol, which Chicagoans had a taste for, often came not from the stills in Chicago Heights or on Taylor street or Division street after sitting for a few days, but from outside the country. And cooperation with Detroit and elsewhere was required to import it from Canada. In return, the local alky was heavily exported, to places such as Milwaukee, Kentucky and Iowa, along with beer that Capone wholesaled to other gangs, including those in the Chicago suburbs. This contact with other areas provided a foothold for later expansion. Also during Prohibition, political corruption increased dramatically, as police and officials were paid on an unprecedented scale to look the other way. In fact, as things progressed the gangsters ran many of the politicians, rather than the politicians having the power to let them run. This gave the underworld (meaning primarily the Capone gang) incredible political influence, which resulted in their monopoly on political protection after they gained complete control of the Chicago area.
Al Capone, however, had little time to enjoy his triumphs. The violence in Chicago during the 1920s and his own flamboyant, attention seeking style made him a visible target for the law. Because local authorities would not move against him, the federal government did, launching a two pronged offensive. One prong was an attack on Capone breweries by Eliot Ness and other Prohibition agents. The second prong was an investigation of his income and whether he had paid income taxes. Just as the gang wars were being won, Capone was convicted of income tax evasion in October of 1931, after IRS agents put together a solid case against him. Capone boarded a train for the U. S. Penitentiary in Atlanta in May of 1932, just as Frank Nitti returned from prison. Nitti, who was previously the Underboss and had been instrumental in running the business end of the gang’s activities, replaced Capone at the top as the demise of Prohibition loomed.
Frank Nitti had a difficult job. While Capone had inherited a smoothly functioning gang from Torrio at the height of the best period the American underworld has ever known, Nitti took over in a declining market when there was noticeable internal strife and external pressure. First, the Great Depression hurt gangland income and the end of Prohibition was about to take away organized crime’s crown jewel. Second, the Capone gang and its allies were under intense scrutiny, top men such as Ralph Capone, Jake Guzik, Terry Druggan, Frank Lake, Al Capone and Nitti himself all having been convicted of tax evasion. Third, after the gang wars were over, there was an excess supply of "soldiers", many of whom on the one hand were not good at anything else and on the other hand were not likely to quietly "fade away." A shrinking pie under attack with just as many mouths to feed meant trouble.
The first order of business was to increase the size of the pie. While this expansion started while Capone was still in charge, it accelerated under Nitti as Prohibition ended. The movement into new rackets was certainly made easier by the lack of any real opposition. After winning the gang wars, Nitti in about 1934 consolidated what was left into one organization with total control of organized crime in Chicago and the surrounding areas. The Outfit as we know it was born at this point.
Jake Guzik and Murray Humphries led the expansion into labor racketeering and gambling. After Prohibition, these activities received the Outfit’s undivided attention and it soon monopolized gambling in Cook County and the neighboring areas and controlled many of the local unions. Much of Mob run gambling at the time consisted of betting on horse races, with the bets taken at bookie joints or by roving handbook operators. Beyond horse racing, there were casino games running at various places in county, such as the Owl Club in Calumet City or in Cicero, and the ubiquitous slot machines, under the blind eyes of various Sheriffs of Cook County (of both political persuasions). Outfit control of gambling was accomplished partly by muscling in on the existing gamblers in the area and partly by expanding what the Capone Mob was already involved in.
Nitti received considerable help from men who had gotten their training under Capone. Besides Guzik and Humphries, there were able racketeers such as Paul "the Waiter" Ricca, Nitti’s underboss who was first active around Taylor street, Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo, Claude "Screwy" Maddox and "Tough Tony" Capezio, all alumni of the Circus Gang, Louis "Little New York" Campagna, Capone bodyguard and Nitti protege, Willie Heeney, in charge of Cicero, Rocco "Mr. Big" DeGrazia, the boss of Melrose Park, killer and gambling operator Sam "Golf Bag" Hunt and Jimmy Emery and Frank LaPorte, who ran the South Suburbs.
Second, Nitti learned the lesson of Al Capone and kept the Outfit out of the spotlight. To quote FBI agent turned author Bill Roemer, they stayed "sub rosa." This was made possible by the post-Prohibition absence of banner headlines in the newspapers reporting spectacular battles over liquor territories. . From shortly following Nitti’s ascension, after the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak, to well into the 1950s, the Outfit ran virtually unmolested by the law. Many of the local police and judiciary were in the Outfit’s pocket. After the string of income tax evasion convictions, the federal authorities moved on to other things, including chasing bank robbers, kidnappers, Communists and World War II spies and saboteurs. This included the FBI, which for years found greener pastures in the preceding then in organized crime. In fact, the Outfit did such a good job of laying low that federal agents, including Eliot Ness, declared the Capone gang finished in 1932 and the Bureau, embracing this view, believed that organized crime in Chicago was inactive until the mid-1940s. Only the Chicago Crime Commission, led by its Operating Director, Virgil Peterson, effectively contested the Outfit from the early 1930s until the late 1950s.
Third, during the early to mid-1930s there were a number of major gangland killings, as the last battles were fought, operations were consolidated into the Outfit (meaning gangsters who refused to give up ownership of their rackets while keeping a percentage of the action were eliminated) and those who could not function in peace time became expendable. Jack McGurn fell in the latter category. Nearly broke and uncomfortable with the new arrangements, he was killed in February 1936. This attrition decreased the number of mouths to be fed by the gangland pie.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, the Outfit gained influence in or over other cities, such as Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, Rockford and Springfield, Illinois, Kansas City and established a foothold in Los Angeles. Beyond it’s crown jewel, local gambling, and local labor racketeering, the Outfit moved into other activities. High interest "juice" loans to unlucky players or those short of funds went hand in hand with gambling. Non-gambling related juice loans, to legitimate businessmen who had trouble borrowing from banks but were vouched for by someone in the Outfit, opened the door to extortion by the Mob. During the World War II years the Chicago Mob, of course, found it profitable to counterfeit ration coupons for gasoline and other commodities. And states with local Prohibition ordinances provided opportunities for small scale bootlegging.
But their most audacious move involved extorting money from the major Hollywood film studios. With control of the Chicago local of the projectionists union and, through George Browne and Willie Bioff, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the leaders of the Outfit extorted money from the major Hollywood film studios starting in the mid-1930s. The studios paid because otherwise the unions would go on strike and close the theaters down. This arrangement worked well enough until Browne and Bioff were indicted and became government witnesses against Nitti, Ricca, Campagna and the other top Chicago mobsters who directed them. Nitti and company were indicted on March 18, 1943. Frank Nitti committed suicide when the indictments came down while almost all the others were convicted in October and received ten year jail sentences in December 1943.
With the hierarchy of the Outfit removed from the scene, including the Boss and Underboss, Tony Accardo stepped into the position of Acting Boss when Ricca went away in 1944. His rise had been fairly quick for peace time, from Capone bodyguard and killer in the late 1920s to capo under Nitti to Underboss below Ricca after Nitti died to Boss in 1944. He became permanent Boss in 1946, but in the meantime regularly visited "the Waiter" in federal prison by masquerading as Ricca’s lawyer. The story of the Outfit in the decades after the death of Frank Nitti is largely the story of Tony Accardo and Paul Ricca, who served as Accardo’s advisor and superior after being released from prison in 1947. In the Outfit’s setup, Ricca was the "Chairman of the Board" (or Consigliere) and Accardo – the Boss at the time – answered to him.
During the Accardo years, although it was around in some form earlier, the Outfit widely levied the "street tax" on various criminal activities in Chicago. The operators/perpetrators, even though they did not belong to the Outfit, paid rather than have the Outfit, through obliging politicians, order the police to shut them down. The tax was placed on organized criminal activities, such as gambling in the Chinatown community, as well as on professional robbers and jewel thieves. In some cases this was an effective substitute for Outfit contol/operation of a certain racket. If they could not effectively do something or did not want to do it themselves, they would tax the existing operators instead.
Gambling provided further opportunities for the Outfit in the 1940s. First, they muscled in on James Ragen, whose Continental Press supplied racing results to bookies around the country. Ragen fought back with everything he could think of, but was shot in June 1946 and died several weeks later. Second, a young hood just out of prison, named Sam Giancana, came to Accardo in 1943 or 1944 and proposed the takeover of the numbers game (sometimes called policy) centered in Chicago’s black community. The game was similar to the Pick Three game run by the current state lotteries. With the heat on over Browne-Bioff and for other reasons they bided their time, but in 1946 the Outfit went after the policy operators, driving most out of business and taking the games over. The only holdout was tough as nails Teddy Roe, who succumbed to several shotgun blasts on August 4, 1952.
During the 1950s, the Outfit was at the peak of its power. Supreme in Chicago, their gambling and vice activities included clubs and casinos on Rush Street (in the heart of the old North Side cabaret district), in Cicero and on the Strip in south suburban Calumet City, which was nationally renowned. Over time the mob’s vice activities had moved from outright prostitution to running striptease clubs, with the girls servicing the customers. Local gambling included the famous "Floating Crap Game", so-named because its location was changed regularly to avoid detection. Gamblers did not find it, instead they were ferried from downtown hotels by drivers to some nondescript location in the surrounding area.
But the Outfit’s biggest moves in the 1950s concerned casino gambling outside of Chicago. Chicago invested first in hotel casinos in user friendly Havana, Cuba. Although somewhat slow to jump in initially, they later went into Las Vegas in a big way and helped build the Vegas Strip. Beginning with the Stardust, by 1961 Chicago had major interests in the Riviera, the Fremont and the Desert Inn. Their Vegas holdings, partly in cooperation with Moe Dalitz, were overseen by John Roselli, while the submissive Teamsters Central States’ Pension Fund provided financing. The percentage for Chicago in Las Vegas was in skimming the casinos – making sure that significant winnings by the house were never counted as part of net income and that taxes on those amounts were never paid.
By definition, when an organization is at its peak, what follows is a decline. In the case of organized crime in Chicago it was caused primarily by the federal government, particularly the FB I. After the Apalachin meeting of the National Commission was exposed by a New York State Police raid in 1957, the Bureau instituted the Top Hoodlum Program and devoted massive resources to combating organized crime – just as Sam "Mooney" Giancana became Boss.
During the Accardo years, Sam Giancana had risen through the Outfit ranks. Accardo, recognizing him as someone with ideas when he brought the Numbers game to his attention, was Giancana’s sponsor when he was "made". Soon he was driver/bodyguard/lieutenant to Accardo, as indicated by the Chicago Police department line-up photo of the two of them in 1945. Accardo voluntarily stepped down from the day to day role of Boss in 1957, partly to lead a quieter life and partly in response to a federal probe of his income taxes, and Giancana succeeded him. But Accardo remained as the guy who Giancana reported to and who (along with Ricca) counseled him.
The Feds and the 1960s
The next decade was not kind to the Outfit. "Free love" cut into the action at their strip joints. Although it took the FBI several years to get up to speed, they quickly came to grips with the Chicago Mob. Bugs were planted in various places the Outfit used for meetings. Major Outfit guys were tailed, including the 24 hour surveillance of Giancana in 1963. Federal agents made Giancana lose his cool several times, including around his love interest, popular singer and entertainer Phyllis McGuire. They finally granted him immunity, forcing him to testify before a grand jury or be hit with contempt charges. Giancana refused to cooperate and was jailed for a year. Meanwhile, the Justice Department, under Robert Kennedy, made the first moves against corrupt labor unions, investigating the Mob dominated Teamsters Union and its national leader, Jimmy Hoffa, who was convicted of manipulating the pension fund in 1964.
Locally, Richard Ogilvie was elected Cook County Sheriff in 1962 and appointed incorruptible Chicago police officer Art Bilek as Chief of the Sheriff’s Police. For the first time in memory, the Sheriff’s Police conducted major raids on gambling games run by the Outfit, closing casinos, such as the Owl Club, all over the county. Even the Floating Crap game was hit by the Sheriffs’ Police, at a location in Cicero. At the same time, reformer O. W. Wilson was superintendent of the Chicago Police and no longer tolerated visible gambling and vice in the city. Importantly, Wilson decoupled the police department from politics, changing districts to no longer correspond with ward boundaries and centrally appointing district commanders rather than allowing the ward politicians to name them.
The pressure got to Giancana. His erratic behavior and his front page life style in return gave Ricca and Accardo fits. Thoroughly disgusted with Giancana, they deposed him in 1966 and elevated Sam "Teets" Battaglia, leader of the Battaglia-Carr gang in the early 1930s before joining the Outfit. Sam Giancana wisely left the country for Mexico and points beyond.
Battaglia was not at the helm long, however. The federal government practice of targeting the top man in the Outfit, which began with Giancana, turned the job of Boss into a revolving door. With prison on the other side of the door. Battaglia was jailed for racketeering in 1967 and replaced by Phil Alderisio, who was himself convicted in 1969. Long-time Accardo lieutenant Jackie Cerone succeeded Alderisio. In the years that followed, virtually every top mobster in Chicago, including everyone who sat in the boss’s chair, was convicted and jailed, with the exception of Tony Accardo.
A new activity for organized crime during the late 1960s was the "chop shop." The Outfit found a percentage in the wholesale theft of automobiles, by chopping them up and selling the untraceable parts rather than trying to move the entire car. This racket, centered in the South suburbs, was first subject to the street tax, with the mob later taking direct control of it.
Evolution in the 1970s and 1980s
Cerone was in turn convicted on gambling charges in May of 1970. In response to the dwindling supply of senior hoods, Accardo formed a threesome, including himself, Gus Alex and Joey Aiuppa, to run the Outfit, at least until Aiuppa was seasoned enough to be sole Boss. Within a few years Aiuppa held the reigns on his own.
The 1970s were tough on the Outfit from a business perspective. Off-track betting cut into their bookmaking operations. The state lottery cut into whatever action there was in numbers. And pressure on corrupt unions intensified.
Ethnic and political change also limited their opportunities in the city of Chicago. During most of the 1960s the Outfit was active, with the necessary political cover, in every part of the city. A side effect of the Civil Rights movement, however, was that minority groups elected new people to office who danced to a different tune. As neighborhoods changed, so did the Outfit’s ability to function in those areas. By the 1970s the Outfit’s activities were more focused on specific neighborhoods and suburbs where they had influence.
Another factor that hit organized crime was the changing nature of politics. During the 1960s, the old style, early 1900s, spittoon kicking, "I’m the boss and what I say goes" type of ward politician – who cooperated with the hoods because that was where the money was – was largely gone from the political landscape. The new, television covered, "servant of the people" type of politician was much less friendly to organized crime. Perhaps because the public was better informed about Mob activities and less tolerant of them.
Furthermore, the move into Las Vegas by legitimate operators, including large corporations, that started with Howard Hughes in the 1960s, resulted in the sale of many mob owned casinos. Law abiding individuals and corporations, because they had lower costs (relative to the hoods) due to operating efficiencies, found they could run the large Vegas casinos more profitably than the gangsters, even though they paid taxes on all their winnings. While they were able to cash out during this period rather than being forced out, this still changed the nature of the Outfit’s activities.
But the 1970s were not all bad. With increased interest in professional athletics, much of Mob bookmaking revolved around betting on pro sports, such as football and basketball. The clientele was mostly white and fairly white collar, as opposed to the traditional customers for the numbers or horse racing.
The 1970s also saw the demise of two major Chicago gangsters. Paul Ricca, who the government endlessly tried to deport (but no other country would take), died of natural causes in October of 1972. Sam Giancana, after returning to the U. S. in 1974, died of unnatural causes in the basement of his Oak Park home on June 19, 1975, after visiting with Dominic "Butch" Blasi.
During the 1980s, the Outfit’s business activities continued to evolve, while decreasing in size overall. Legal casino gaming cut into mob gambling of all types and by this decade the numbers, horse racing, slot machines and other traditional forms of illegal betting were largely a thing of the past. The Outfit was not completely but at least largely out of Las Vegas by the end of the decade, the process being hastened by federal indictments for skimming in Nevada. Video poker machines in bars, with the bartender paying winners in cash, and professional sports betting, which the Outfit quickly monopolized in the Chicago area, were the two main gambling activities. Juice loans and the related extortion were an ongoing activity, although labor racketeering was declining.
In 1983, for example, the Outfit was believed to be organized into five basic street crews (capos in parentheses) covering the North Side (Vince Solano), the South Suburbs (Albert Tocco), Chinatown (Angelo LaPietra), the West Side (Joey Lombardo) and the Western Suburbs (Joe Ferriola). A separate group, led by Tony Spilotro, oversaw their interests in Las Vegas. By 1990, the Outfit had six, much smaller crews: North Side, Chinatown, West Side, Western Suburbs, Grand Avenue and Lake County. Chris Petti was their man in Vegas, after Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael were found buried in 1986 in an Indiana corn field.
The decrease in the number of made members in Chicago was not necessarily a bad thing, although it did reflect a decrease in the scope and nature of their activities. It was also most likely a response to federal inroads and the power of the RICO statute. Less made guys, more associates, meant less guys who could cause real damage if they turned on the Outfit. In fact, to date only two higher level Chicago mobsters, and neither were major figures, have been publicly identified as federal informants: Ken Eto in the 1983 and Lenny Patrick in 1991.
Aiuppa remained at the top until he was convicted in a Vegas skimming case in 1986. Joe Ferriola replaced him and at Ferriola’s death in 1989, Sam Carlisi took over the position of Boss. In each case Accardo served as the Chairman of the Board.
The 1990s and Beyond
The 1990s saw the Outfit retrench itself around sports gambling and video poker machines. Gone was the old time gambling and Las Vegas, as well as most of the labor racketeering. Gone were the Strip in Cal City, bulldozed and redeveloped, and the joints in Cicero. Of course, they were ready to do anything that held a percentage for them, such as loot the town of Cicero (as charged in a recent indictment) or try to find a way into the legal casinos near the city.
But the Outfit became a shadow of its 1950s stature, with only three street crews in 1997. One covering the entire South Side and Southern suburbs (basically run from Chinatown), one handling the West Side and DuPage County and the third working the North Side, Elmwood Park and the north suburban Lake County areas. Recruiting grounds for future Mob members and associates include gangs of young thiefs and burglars centered in Elmwood Park and on the West Side.
Time also took its toll on mob leadership. Tony Accardo was removed, after providing leadership during six decades, from the scene by death in May 1992. Something the Feds or the local authorities were never able to do. Sam Carlisi was convicted in 1993, and was replaced around that time (or according to some accounts earlier) by John DiFronzo. Since the early 1990s, due to a multitude of successful federal prosecutions, the Outfit has again gone "underground", keeping an extremely low profile. This is reminiscent of how they responded to their top leadership being removed in the past -- either for income tax evasion or in the Browne-Bioff case. For years there were no likely Mob hits, at least until the1999 shooting of Ron Jarrett (who died in 2000). It was also rumored that street level mobsters were directed not to bother people who did not pay what they owed. Instead, they were instructed to cut them off from further betting or refuse to give them further loans.
Since about the mid-1990s even the best informed authorities have not been sure who was in charge or even if there was a central figure in Chicago. DiFronzo, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and Joe "the Builder" Andriacci are the individuals most frequently named as Boss, Underboss or Consigliere (not necessarily in that order), but there have been a number of conflicting opinions on the subject. As this is being written, one local television station has reported that James Marcello, long-time Carlisi lieutenant who is currently in prison, is the new Boss!
With respect to narcotics, the Outfit had a long standing policy, formulated by Ricca and Accardo, that its members were not to traffic in drugs. Some defied this edict – and paid with their lives when they were found out. But most of the Outfit’s guys stayed away from the drug business. Only after Accardo’s death was this iron clad rule seemingly relaxed, with the leadership instituting a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Trafficking in illegal drugs was no longer forbidden for made members, but whatever they did was outside of the Outfit, strictly free-lance. The Outfit washed its hands of the whole matter, not sharing in the profits, but also not taking any of the risks, including not helping members in legal trouble because of the drug trade. It is likely that some Outfit members have dealt in the wholesale end of the drug business, possibly bankrolling major purchases by street gangs and other dealers at the street level since 1992.
Despite the decline in its fortunes, which has happened to organized crime in all the major cities in the U. S., the Outfit is still around. They can still be found in their favorite haunts, but they have a much lower profile. However, the Outfit is ready to move any time it sees an angle for itself, as evidenced by the alleged misuse of public funds in Cicero. The Cicero case indicates that the more things change in Chicago organized crime, the more they stay the same. Something that would be appreciated by "Big Jim" Colosimo, who would certainly notice how similar the current Outfit is in its scope and structure to the gang he led before Prohibition.
The author has frequently served as a consultant to the media, including film and cable television, on organized crime in Chicago.
The author is greatful to:Art Bilek
for their comments and suggestions.
© 2001 John J. Binder