Feature Articles

January 15, 2001

Round Up The Usual Suspects 2

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy

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Chicago: Recent reports out of sources in Chicago reveal that former high-ranking Chicago police official William A. Hanhardt allegedly played a hands-on role in running a sophisticated nationwide jewelry theft ring.

Sources in Chicago say that Hanhardt personally and carefully picked the gang's targets, studied the traveling salesmen's routines and sometimes used key making equipment to slip into jewelers' locked cars unnoticed and that he served as a lookout during one attempted theft.

Hanhardt had risen to deputy superintendent and had once been chief of detectives, a post that allowed him to investigate jewelry robberies.

Law enforcement experts says that Hanhardt, 71, used Chicago police officers to run license-plate checks and gather other information about potential victims using confidential law enforcement computers and had a private investigator search out credit reports of targets, according to the charges.

Police related agencies say that the ring found lucrative targets by attending jewelry trade shows, then followed salesmen as they drove to Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere to meet customers and kept intricate files detailing their routines.

The gang used aliases and disguises, employed key codes and key making equipment to get into jewelers' cars, kept in touch during surveillances with walkie-talkies-and had smoke bombs and bulletproof vests.

Sources also say that Hanhardt's activities were widely known inside the police department and that Hanhardt led the mob-connected theft ring while he was still a police captain. The federal government says that Hanhardt stayed active in the gang for another decade after he retired from the top echelons of the department in 1986.

Remarkably, Hanhardt and three others were released from custody after pleading not guilty in court.

It's been established that one co-defendant, Guy Altobello, 69, is a reputed top associate of former mob boss James "Turk" Torello. Altobello worked at his son's jewelry store in suburban Wheaton and is accused of supplying inside information about jewelry salesmen.

The gangs sometimes switched jeweler's cases with matching luggage so the victims wouldn't even be aware of the theft for some time.

Joseph Basinski, described as Hanhardt's top aide in the jewelry theft ring, was also indicted.

Basinski, was charged last year with intimidating a prosecution witness who had given the FBI Basinski's briefcase-full of personal information about dozens of traveling wholesale jewelry salesmen. Investigators opened the briefcase without a warrant, and a judge ordered the evidence suppressed, barring prosecutors from using its contents against Hanhardt and the others. Prosecutors asked the appeals court to reconsider its decision upholding the judge's ruling.

Also charged was Sam DeStefano, 46, of Downers Grove, whose deceased father was allegedly the reputed mobster, the much-feared "Mad Sam" DeStefano who was murdered inside the family garage on mob orders. One of the shotgun killers was believed to have been Mad Sam's prot�g�, Nicky "The Ant" Spilotro.

DeStefano's role in the theft ring came to light in part because of a bitter divorce in DuPage County Circuit Court, sources said. During one court hearing, DeStefano and his wife argued about hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry kept in the couple's safety deposit box.

The 31-page indictment also identified two additional coconspirators who are now deceased-James D'Antonio, a one-time driver and top lieutenant for reputed mob boss Joseph Lombardo, and Robert Paul.

Boston: John J. "Jackie" Salemme of South Boston has pled guilty in federal court to illegal gambling, money laundering, extortion, loan sharking and conspiracy.

Salemme is the one time partner of fugitive mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

Salemme pled guilty to counts two and three of the indictment, which alleged that he conducted two illegal gambling businesses. One of the businesses printed and distributed football-betting cards.

Salemme also admitted to conspiring to launder the proceeds of his illegal gambling business. In connection with this charge, he agreed to the forfeiture of $14,000, as property involved in the money laundering offense. He also admitted to conspiring to use force and the threat of force to protect his gambling business.

Milan: A recent study has found that nearly half the 5,000 Mafia turncoats and their families in Italy's witness-protection program develop serious psychological problems from their ordeal.

About 40 percent of those receiving witness-protection services develop problems such as depression, anxiety, identity crises and suicidal tendencies.

Sources say that self-inflicted injuries are common, and family tensions run very high, especially because one person's choice is often not supported by family members who are then forced to endure the very serious consequences.

Besides not being able to contact family and friends, those in the programs suffer the added burden of not being able to confide in doctors or therapists about their situations and their children particularly fare poorly when being forced to hide their identities.

China: A court in eastern China issued death sentences for four leaders of a gang, which abducted, raped and sold poor rural women as brides.

The four condemned men led an 18-member gang, which swindled and trafficked women from the poor southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou and sold them in the city of Suqian in the prosperous coastal province of Jiangsu, the agency said.

The gang teamed up with local peasants to kidnap the women and sell them for between $180 to $480.

The abducted women were sold as brides or into prostitution, while the children were mostly sold to childless couples.

The abduction of women and children is rampant in rural areas and the government vowed to make the anti-trafficking campaign a priority this year.

Hollywood: Nanci Meeks, the nicest, sexiest and funniest women on the Internet has a new page opened at

Nanci can also be read at her regular page "Free John Gotti" and she's a Yankees' fan too. Nanci just may be the perfect woman.

Mexico: Bad checks have cost Mexican banks some $50 million this year, a 38 percent improvement over year-earlier figures, the newspaper Reforma reported on Friday, citing the Mexican Bankers Association who claim that most of the checkbook fraud is attributed to local and international organized crime syndicates.

Hollywood: Buena Vista International, the Walt Disney Co.'s international sales and acquisitions arm, has sold an untitled Kim Fuller pitch for a mid-six-figure advance.

The pitch centers on the daughter of an English godfather who inherits the family business from him, making her the most powerful Mafia figure in England. But her plans go awry when she tries to transform all the gangsters in her employ into legitimate businessmen.

Mexico: At least 20 people were killed and another 28 injured after being trapped in a predawn fire at the "Lobohombo", a trendy Mexico City dance club that authorities had shut 11 times before for code violations.

The blaze was fueled by the club's interior decoration, plastic flammable materials that simulated a jungle setting, they said.

Witnesses said most of the dead, many of them waiters and other employees of the club, were killed when fire caused the club's ceiling to collapse.

Police say that members of the Mexican Mafia own the club.

Cayman Islands: The US Internal Revenue Service wants the credit card records of people who may have used Caribbean offshore tax haven accounts to help them evade US income taxes. The IRS filed a lengthy petition Wednesday asking a Miami US District Court to issue summonses to American Express Co. and MasterCard International to turn over 1998 and 1999 transaction records for US taxpayers who have credit cards issued by banks in the Cayman Islands, Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda.

The IRS says the US Treasury loses an estimated $70 billion yearly from individual taxpayers who use offshore accounts to evade taxes.

Once money is moved to an offshore account, the account holder can use a credit card issued by the bank where the account was created to make purchases and the payments on the credit card tab can be discreetly made from the account.

Seoul: North and South Korea have agreed to reinforce their political dialogue, pledging to work to strengthen arms control, tackle global environmental issues and combat transnational crime, including money-laundering, smuggling of immigrants, international terrorism and drug-trafficking.

Ecuador: Ecuador wants the international community to help pay for a protection zone along its border with drug drenched Columbia.

At a series of meetings with US Attorney General Janet Reno, drug policy director Barry McCaffrey and US lawmakers, Moeller said Ecuador needed $250 to $300 million over the next two to three years to prevent the spread of coca plantations into Ecuador.

Ecuador has given US anti-narcotics planes access to its Manta air and naval base in the northern part of the country, and hopes the United States will reciprocate with anti-drug aid.

"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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