There is a hit movie out right now called "The Departed" starring Jack Nicholson as a mob boss. It centers on a cop who is actually working for the mob. It is fictional story. But in Chicago that same scenario is playing out in real life, with a 9-year veteran lawman accused of helping the outfit by secretly leaking information that might have compromised the biggest outfit case in Chicago in 20 years.
"No system is perfect. Much of what we do depends on trust and confidence and honor," said Gary Shapiro, US. state's attorney.
According to federal prosecutors, 38-year-old John Thomas Ambrose broke the trust, compromised that confidence and dishonored his oath to uphold the law. Ambrose appeared Thursday afternoon before US Magistrate Michael Mason on federal theft charges.
According to the FBI, Ambrose fed Chicago organized crime bosses, including Jimmy "the Man" Marcello, a steady diet of "highly sensitive, confidential information" about a key witness in the federal investigation of more than a dozen unsolved Chicago mob killings.
"The breach could have put at risk the life of one of the most important witnesses ever developed in Chicago against the Chicago Outfit. It could have put at risk US Marshal's, and family members of that witness," said Robert Grant, FBI special agent in charge.
Conversations between Marcello and his brother at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, had been secretly recorded by the FBI. The conversations included coded references to "the status, substance of cooperation and travel" of Nicholas Calabrese, a defendant and key witness in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets.
Federal agents say they had to break the mob code, deciphering that Ambrose was "the babysitter." The FBI was "polizia." Mob leader Joey "the Clown" Lombardo was Pai-Achi, the name of a clown in a famous Italian opera. The Spilotro brothers who had been tortured and buried alive in a cornfield were "shivago," and the code for wife, "moolieri."
Ambrose's lawyer contends, he's no hoodlum.
"He is not connected to the mob at all. It rests on impressions and opinions of an FBI agent who wrote that affidavit. She said so herself and she is interpreting what they are saying," said Frank Lipuma, Ambrose's attorney.
Ambrose's father Thomas was a disgraced Chicago cop, a key figure convicted in the Marquette 10 police corruption case 20 years ago.
Authorities believe that while the father was serving time at the downstate Marion penitentiary, he renewed a boyhood friendship with Chicago mob king John "No Nose" DiFronzo , and that after Thomas Ambrose died, his son john, the deputy US marshal, struck up a relationship with DiFronzo , all leading to questions about why Ambrose was hired in the first place.
When interviewed by the FBI, Ambrose said he understood he made a mistake but that his intention was to ingratiate himself to DiFronzo and others to help his career. He thought they might help him locate fugitives including the recently captured Joey "the Clown" Lombardo.
Ambrose has been on leave from the US Marshal's Office since September and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. He is out on $50,000 bond.