I-Team Report: Cicero's Super Car

September 30, 2010 4:37:29 AM PDT
It's the kind of bulletproof vehicle you would expect to see in Iraq or used to drive the president and top diplomats.

However, the armored SUV in this was on the streets of a Chicago suburb.

It is a story of either public service at great personal peril or the height of paranoia and one local leader's greatly inflated sense of her own importance.

Either way, the I-Team found that the "Super Car" in Cicero is worth six figures and has a history of mayhem.

After all, Cicero was the headquarters of Al Capone.

In 1993, long after Capone, but with the outfit still flexing muscles in Cicero, Betty Loren-Maltese was elected town president. Loren-Maltese is the widow of mob bookmaker and former Cicero town assessor Frank "Baldy" Maltese.

Loren-Maltese became known as "Cicero's Godmother," even though she had vowed to rid the town of mobsters and street gangs.

"There were threats on my life on a regular basis," said Loren-Maltese.

It was in early 2000, when one of the gangs put out a contract on her life, that then-police chief Tom Rowan says she needed protection.

"At the time, we had tape recordings of some of the threats they made to her, as to what terrible things they would do to her daughter, who at that time was probably 4 years old," said Rowan.

"It even came down to the point of the exact street it was supposed to happen, how they were gonna do it," said Loren-Maltese.

So in 2000, Cicero paid $130,000, according to current town, for an armored SUV complete with a siren and hidden police lights, a device that allowed bodyguards to eavesdrop on what was being said outside the vehicle, and two-inch thick bulletproof windows.

"It was intended to look pedestrian and at the same time make you feel like you're the president of the United States driving through a war zone or something," said Cicero Town Spokesman Ray Hanania.

"When you come out and you make enemies and you make enemies who have no value of life, I think correct steps were taken, and it was at, I'll say, the prodding of the chief and the attorney," said Loren-Maltese.

"Once you get into office it becomes an ego thing," said Hanania. "Everybody believes they're being threatened by somebody, and I bet every public official gets threatened, but I don't know how many of them have ever gone to the lengths of spending $130,000 in taxpayer money to order a special car to protect them from those threats."

In 2002, Loren-Maltese was convicted in a $12 million corruption case and sentenced to eight years. She was recently released and now lives in Evergreen Park.

The government seized her personal cars and is still trying to take her homes, but because the "Super Car" was titled to the town, Cicero officials own it.

"'Look, let's try to sell it - get whatever money we can,'" Hanania says he said to the current town president. "So, we're going to put it on eBay, we're going to open up an account, we're going to start the bidding at about $65,000 and see what we get."

Loren-Maltese, who spends her days on Facebook, not eBay, is looking for a full-time job. T

Wednesday night, she told the I-Team that something else is behind the latest smear campaign against her.

"If they think I'm gonna campaign against them, I think they think I'm gonna get involved," said Loren-Maltese. "I really think Mr. Hanania is just baiting the media to skirt the real issues in town."

Those issues, she says, include town finances and gang crime.

There are two Cicero trustee spots coming open, and Loren-Maltese believes town officials are concerned she will campaign against the incumbents.

Even though she sounds like someone reloading at a political target, Loren-Maltese says her sight is set on just one thing: a motion to overturn her conviction, which is to be filed next week.

Once the car is put on eBay, the town officials say they will run a background check on whoever buys it so that it does not end up in the hands of gangsters or criminals.


Load Comments