Chicago mobster sentenced to 20 years

March 11, 2009 10:26:05 AM PDT
The first major defendant in Operation Family Secrets was given a stiff sentence on Monday afternoon. Chicago mobster Paul Schiro was sentenced to 20 years in prison in part for a murder that the jury never said he committed.

At 71, Paul Schiro looks nothing like the feared outfit warrior that won him the nickname "The Indian."

On Monday afternoon at his federal court sentencing, Schiro was called many other names, including "animal," "sleeper agent for the outfit,"and "predator of the worst kind."

But Schiro was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for living up to another name: "The Hitman."

When the big five Family Secrets defendants were found guilty of racketeering, Paul Schiro was convicted with the rest of them.

But the jury couldn't decide whether Schiro committed the one murder that prosecutors had pinned on him.

That was the 1986 killing of Schiro's friend, Emil "Mal" Vaci, who had toiled on the fringes of the Chicago outfit in Las Vegas and in Phoenix, Arizona.

One night, when mob bosses thought Mal Vaci might crack under pressure from the FBI they came to a Phoenix restaurant where Vaci was a popular maître d'. They drove him a few blocks and to insure he wouldn't talk, they pumped three rounds into his head, wrapped him in plastic and "dumped him into canal like garbage," according to a letter from Vaci's daughter read on Monday in federal court.

As the letter was read in court, a photo of the victim and his daughter was projected on a big screen.

Paul Schiro was a member of the five man hit squad, according to the government. And even though the jury that convicted Schiro of racketeering could agree on that, on Monday Judge James Zagel did agree, finding that "he was basically on call for the mob," was a hitman and was involved in the murder 23 year ago, even though crew leader Nick cCalabrese actually pulled the trigger.

Zagel sentenced Schiro to the twenty year sentence that prosecutors had argued he deserved.

In a brief statement Schiro said that he had never even met his co-defendants.

Schiro is also on the hook for a few million dollars in fines and restitution but considering that he hasn't paid $5 million in restitution from a previous federal case and his lawyer says he's broke, payment is unlikely.

While Schiro is a man of few words and even fewer dollars, one of the co-defendants he claims not to know, Frank Calabrese Senior, will be sentenced on Wednesday.