Church suspends priest accused of helping mobster

Klein
June 10, 2011 4:51:37 PM PDT
There are new developments in the case of a ruthless Chicago mobster, a Roman Catholic priest and a priceless violin. That unusual combination is the focus of this Intelligence Report.

Chicago Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. enlisted the help of a prison chaplain to get around jailhouse security rules intended to stop him from communicating with associates on the outside. Now the Roman Catholic priest is facing federal indictment in Chicago and has been suspended by the church.

The purpose of Calabrese's mission from God wasn't to put out a murder contract, according to federal authorities; it was to retrieve an expensive violin.

"It was suppose to have been a Stradivarius violin, and at one time it was supposed to have been owned by Liberace," said ex-Calabrese lawyer Joe "The Shark" Lopez.

Probably not the flamboyant Lee Liberace, because he played the piano, more likely his brother George who frequently accompanied on the violin.

It was such a million-dollar instrument that Frank "the Breeze" Calabrese somehow obtained on a trip to Las Vegas-- not that the gruff Outfit enforcer is thought to have been particularly musical, but the violin was an item of value that Calabrese did not want federal authorities to seize and apply to his $4 million forfeiture bill.

So, as Calabrese serves a life sentence in Springfield, Missouri, in solitary confinement for his role in mob murders and racketeering, he was allowed face-to-face meetings only with doctors, social workers and the prison chaplain, Catholic priest Father Eugene Klein.

According to the federal indictment, Father Klein agreed to help Calabrese retrieve the valuable violin from a secret hiding place inside a summer home that Calabrese owned in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

But there was no unholy alliance between Father Klein and Calabrese as the feds have charged, according to Lopez, the attorney who represented Calabrese during Operation Family Secrets.

"I think Frank wasn't conning the priest, I think Frank was just asking the priest to help him," Lopez said. "I think it's kind of an unholy thing, but I'm not the federal government, and if I were I wouldn't indict the priest... I would give him a pass. He really didn't do anything wrong."

Nevertheless, the priest charged in Chicago has now been suspended by his home diocese. Winona, Minnesota, Bishop John Quinn on Friday afternoon issued a statement ordering Father Klein onto administrative leave, suspending his priestly faculties while asking that Klein be kept in prayer.

Father Klein is accused of traveling to north suburban Barrington, where he met with a friend of Frank Calabrese, a 72-year-old, former Italian restaurant owner, and wanted him to help get the violin back. It is believed that Barrington resident ended up cooperatingwith the FBI.

Attempts by the I-Team to contact the Barrington resident have been unsuccessful.

Load Comments