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Feature Articles


September 2002

AKA, Tony the Hatch, DOA

By John William Tuohy


     Anthony Chiaramonti was murdered on Thanksgiving Day 2001.

     Chiaramonti climbed the mob's ranks as a violent street enforcer and debt collector in the South Side rackets. Chiaramonti worked his way up as an enforcer and debt collector at east since 1967, and was known for stealing goods off trucks in highway "Stick and run" robberies.

     His nickname, the Hatchet, came from his reputation of wielding a hatchet on people.

     Chiaramonti "bragged to his colleagues about stabbing a guy in the neck with a fork and putting another guy who owed him money on a hot griddle," a mob lawyer recalled "He was just an all-around sweet guy."

     With another indebted restaurant owner, Chiaramonti picked the man up and slammed him down into a hot griddle. And there were not one, but two stories of men over the years soiling themselves when they faced the fearsome mobster, whose eyes would bulge out in anger.

     "He was just vicious," one law enforcement source said.

     Chiaramonti's loansharking operation, which charged 260 percent interest, lent money to gamblers, small businessmen and hoodlums alike.

     In 1993, Anthony LaBarbera, a trucking company operator, who borrowed $5,000 from Chiaramonti wore a hidden tape recorder for the FBI.

     In 1988 LaBarbera needed money to purchase insurance and license plates for his trucking company. Unable to get a bank loan, one of his employees, Vince Falzone, explained that he had worked for Zizzo and Chiaramonti and could check into a juice loan. Chiaramonti met LaBarbera and loaned him $5,000 and instructed LaBarbera to drop off $250 in interest payments each week in envelopes addressed to "LT," a reference to Little Tony Zizzo.

     After making payments on the loan (often with cash fronted by the FBI) for 13 months, LaBarbera fell behind. Chiaramonti called him late at night, informed him that Zizzo was "hollering about the money being late," and warned LaBarbera to pay up "or else."

     LaBarbera was recorded telling Chiaramonti that he was late with a payment because a client owed him money, Chiaramonti said: "When you got your foot on his throat, then tell him now to go get my money,"

     "Don't grab me around the throat,'' pleaded Anthony LaBarbera.

     "You miss one more appointment,'' Chiaramonti said, "and I'll bury you.''

     Chiaramonti, choked LaBarbera and threatened to "fuckin' shoot" him, "break [his] fuckin' head," "bury" him, and "fuckin' knock [his] head off." Chiaramonti also threatened to put LaBarbera, who had a serious heart condition, "right back in the hospital." LaBarbera was so scared that he avoided Big Tony by having undercover FBI agents drop off his next few juice loan payments.

     The South Side operation was crippled by the 1993 federal racketeering convictions of its bosses, including Chiaramonti, Wings Carlisi, James Marcello worked as Carlisi's chauffeur, emissary, and all-around right-hand man. Third in command was Anthony Zizzo. Known on the street as "Little Tony," Zizzo supervised both Frank Bonavolante, the head of the crew's gambling operations, Brett O'Dell, who helped Chiaramonti with the juice loan operation, and Richie Gervasio, who took bets for the crew and sometimes collected gambling debts. Two of the crew pled guilty and the rest took their chances with a jury. All but one were convicted, and six appealed.

     The crew ran an extensive network of "offices," which were often relocated to throw government agents off of the trail, the crew took bets on professional sports and horse races. It was a lucrative enterprise.

     One of its bookies, Kenton "Kappy" Pielet, took in between $75,000 and $125,000 in wagers on an "average" weekend. And another office--one which cost over $500,000 to open-- had a weekly payroll of around $30,000 and served a 800 customers.

     Because all bets, no matter how large, were accepted on credit, the crew prided itself on its effective debt-collection practices and held its bookies personally responsible for their customers' past-due accounts.

     When a gambler named Anthony Pape failed to make good on his $15,000 gambling debt, Frankie Bonavolante let him know that "not even God was going to help you" while a hood with Bonavolante threatened to beat the completely bald Pape until his "head turns so black and blue people would think you got hair" Pape eventually convinced his father to cash in a $16,000 retirement annuity to save himself.

     Gambler Michael Huber laid $60,000 in bets over 18 months with crew bookies Kappy Pielet and Thomas Briscoe. When Huber failed to make timely payments on a $2,500 losing wager, however, Gervasio revoked his betting privileges. Huber argued and Gervasio had him taken out to the parking lot by two thugs and worked over. He was told to return in a week with a payment. When he failed to show for the meeting, two thugs were sent to collect him and deliver him to Gervasio. Huber was checked for a wire, choked, and threatened. He was so frightened that he defecated in his pants.

     Huber managed to avoid the crew for almost 2 years. Then a collector named Joe Cumbo knocked on his door to collect his debt. When Huber explained that he couldn't pay, Cumbo ordered Huber sell his wife's car. but Huber refused. Two days later someone threw a flare into the car, burning its back seat.

     Released from prison in 1998, Chiaramonti, at age 65, was the first of the old leaders back on the streets.

     As the recognized head of the South Side's loansharking operation, Chiaramonti was widely feared. Chiaramonti, who ran loansharking operations for Wings Carlisi before his death, reported directly to Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo, the number three man in the Outfit in the 1990s under James J. Marcello.

     The area that Chiaramonti controlled had been under John "Johnny Apes" Monteleone, who, for decades ran the rackets in Cicero, the South Side, the South suburbs, the 26th Street area, Bridgeport and Chinatown, which are traditionally among the mob's most lucrative.

     When Monteleone died of natural causes in January 2001, Chiaramonti, made his move for complete domination of the areas sports bookmaking, loansharking and labor racketeering.

     There is some speculation that street crew bosses, who were supposed to be under Chiaramonti's jurisdiction, refused to acknowledged his authority.

     In some part this is due to the fact that the old organizational structure no longer exists, and that Johnny Ape Monteleone's death has sparked an "every man for himself" attitude, something new for the Chicago mob.

     On November 22, 2001, Chiaramonti was gunned down in the vestibule of a west suburban chicken restaurant.

     Chiaramonti backed his new $67,000 BMW into a parking space across from the restaurant's entrance and then stopped to use a pay phone in the small vestibule at the entrance. As he was walking back toward his car, a van pulled into his path. A passenger in dark clothes and possibly wearing a hood, leaped out and confronted Chiaramonti. The two men argued loudly. Chiaramonti then turned and ran for the restaurant. As he entered the 4x4 vestibule enclosed by double glass doors, the man from van followed and shot Chiaramonti five times, once in the chest, once in the arm and three times in the head. The confrontation lasted roughly 30 seconds.

     One account had him running the mob's operation in Cicero.

OUTRAGEOUS

     On November 11, 2001, a federal judge agreed with the state

     Supreme Court that prosecutors did not discriminate against Italian-Americans by excluding six of them from a reputed mobster's murder trial. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge William Yohn said prosecutors could use peremptory challenges to keep Italian-Americans off the jury in Rico's first-degree murder trial. Such challenges let attorneys remove jurors without stating a reason.

     The case involves a defendant named Joseph Rico, whose real name is Joe Gravel, who changed his name so he could "advance in the mob"

     Gravel was convicted in the 1983 murder of New Jersey drug dealer (which is a much faster way to advance in the outfit over a name change) The jury, which did include one Italian-American, convicted Gravel. However, the conviction was overturned in 1995 when a state appeals court agreed that prosecutors violated Rico's rights by trying to exclude jurors who might sympathize with him because of their ethnicity. The conviction was reinstated in 1998 by the state Supreme Court, which said prosecutors challenged the potential jurors for reasons unrelated to their ethnicity.

     So, who is to blame here? Well, Gravel for one. He’s playing the ethnic card for everything he can get out of it including advance in the mob and a free ticket out of jail.However, that the law allows prosecutors to use peremptory challenges to keep Italian-Americans off the jury is dangerous and an insult to the Itlo-American community. To the best of my knowledge, most corrupt jurors in mob cases from Accardo to Gotti have been Anglo-Americans.

     The courts needs to call peremptory challenges by its proper name, prejudice opinion. Most disappointing in this affair is the complete absence of those rather questionable group of Chicago based concerned citizens who recently tried to take The Soprano’s off the air because, they said, it defamed the Italian American image. The group, whose motive I have always suspected based on some of the behind the scene players who back it, could redeem it self by leaping into action against this ruling. However, this idiot ruling goes further than threatening the well being and good name of the Italian people. The possibility for its abuse is endless in scope.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to MobStudy@aol.com


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