This is the story of Anthony Calabrese, who carries the same last name as one of Chicago's most notorious mob families.
Anthony is not even related to the bloodthirsty Calabreses, who made news last summer during the operation Family Secrets mob murder trial. But Anthony Calabrese is in the same line of work as his infamous namesakes.
There have been 1,100 mob hits in Chicago since the Roaring Twenties. The last known gangland murder occurred in the entryway of a west suburban restaurant. Mobster Anthony "The Hatchet" Chiarmonti was chased and gunned down in 2001 by an assassin who escaped in a getaway minivan. Two months later, at Tony C's Auto Shop in Alsip, business owner Anthony "Tony C" Calabrese convened a meeting.
**Strip off your clothes," barked a twitchy Calabrese, concerned one of his underlings had turned on him and was wearing a hidden FBI tape recorder, which he was. But they never found it.
"You know to keep your mouth shut. I mean, you understand what'll happen?" asked Calabrese.
"Tony, do I look like I wanna be dead?" answered the associate.
Calabrese threatened to kill the associate if he went to the feds. Investigators believe Calabrese was paranoid that authorities would connect him to the parking lot murder of Chiaramonti two months earlier. At one point, Calabrese and one of his henchmen pounced on the suspected rat.
The tape was played last week by federal prosecutors, who had charged Calabrese in a series of suburban stick-ups. Calabrese's accomplice during the recorded attack, Robert Cooper, testified that it was a "stomping" with "steel-toe boots." Cooper helped convict Calabrese of armed robberies in Morton Grove, Maywood and Lockport. Judge Amy St. Eve allowed the violent tape to be played over Calabrese's objections.
Calabrese's lawyer admits the tape wasn't pretty and did-in the hoodlum in the eyes of the jury.
Cooper has also admitted to police that he was Calabrese's partner in the murder of Tony The Hatch. Cooper is now serving time for driving the getaway vehicle. Calabrese has never been charged with the Chiaramonti hit, although authorities are said to be building a murder case against him. At age 47, he faces a minimum 50 years behind bars just for the stick-ups.
Calabrese's lawyer says that amounts to a life sentence.
Federal agents hope such a bleak existence behind bars might entice Calabrese to cooperate and give up the names of top Chicago Outfit bosses who arranged Chiarmonti's murder.
Mob experts say Calabrese has reported to James "Jimmy I" Inendino. The I stands for ice-pick, which Mr. Inendino has been known to use for eye examinations. "Jimmy I" is considered a leader in the mob's 26th Street crew, a rigid organization where hoodlums like Calabrese are bred to go down with the ship.
Calabrese's lawyer says that Anthony believes he was brought into the world as a man and will go out as a man.
As meticulous as Anthony Calabrese was running his criminal ventures, and as paranoid as he was that someone might turn on him, Calabrese somehow missed the tape recorder that probably did him in. He even strip searched the guy, desperate to find a recorder. It was there somewhere, rolling and recording, even as Calabrese punched and stomped his way to mob infamy.