For years, law enforcement has considered Chicago's McCormick Place as a mob Mecca, where gangsters were drawn by lucrative contracts with trade shows, exhibitors and convention producers paying the price. A year ago, when Elmwood Park mob boss Fratto was charged with fixing a six-figure forklift contract, mobwatchers were licking their chops that finally the secrets of McCormick Place would be exposed.
Sixty-seven-year-old Rudy "The Chin" Fratto -- in a dark pinstripe suit and sporting a pair of Prada eyeglasses -- walked out of federal court Thursday empty-handed. Fratto gave up his right to a trial and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in the scheme at McCormick Place. The high-ranking outfit leader admits having obtained inside information about a deal to supply forklifts in 2006.
But when Fratto stood before district judge Harry Leinenweber Thursday in federal court to plead guilty, it meant that the lock will remain on McCormick Place corruption evidence.
The plea bargain presented Thursday insures that evidence and witness testimony will no longer be necessary to convict Fratto and those details will be kept from the public.
What we do know from this Fratto agreement with the government is that his bid-rigging scheme for two trade shows at McCormick Place involved the settlement of a $350,000 debt to somebody in Cleveland.
Although not spelled out in print, law enforcement sources say that debt in Cleveland was to a member of the city's organized crime family and to an unnamed Chicago attorney for a failed business proposition.
For Fratto, who declined to speak to news reporters as he left court, this is the latest legal humiliation. He just finished a year in prison for federal income tax violations.
The outfit is in Fratto's DNA. His uncles and other relatives have been associated with gangland Chicago for decades.
Fratto's sentencing isn't until February, so he will be able to spend the holidays with his family in Darien.
The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison for both Fratto and his accomplice, Inverness businessman William "Billy" Degironemo. Prosecutors say they plan to ask for a sentence of between a year and a half and two years for Fratto.