Feds start trial against Outfit, bike gang members

November 15, 2010 (CHICAGO) In this Intelligence Report: an explosive outcome to what authorities believe was the first case ever of an alleged alliance between those two criminal groups.

If this wasn't such a serious story, you could title it "The Odd Couple."

Members of the Chicago Outfit, who rarely recruit outside their own ranks, did just that, according to federal prosecutors, joining hands with the Chicago Outlaws, a violent motorcycle gang, to help control illegal gambling rackets in the west suburbs.

The alliance allegedly became explosive when a mob competitor was bombed by crew of Outfit and Outlaw crewmen.

Career hoodlum Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno, of WESTCHESTER, was the leader of the rogue video poker business, according to the FBI.

Authorities say, Sarno, nicknamed "Large" in recognition of his belt size, supervised the Outfit operation with this man, co-defendant Casey Szaflarski, who left court with a relative Monday.

They are charged with blowing up a video poker in Berwyn in 2003 with the help of Outlaw biker Anthony Volpendesto, who is acting as his own attorney, and his octogenarian father, 87-year-old Sam Volpendesto, who is being held without bond as a flight risk, but appearing in court barely able to move and slumped over in a wheelchair.

Sarno is also charged as leading a suburban theft ring, fencing stolen jewelers at a Cicero pawn shop owned by co-defendant Mark Polchan.

"We're confident that when the evidence comes out and when a jury hears what sorts of information the government is relying on, they're going to have a lot of questions about whether these people are credible," said Damon Cheronis, Polchan's lawyer.

In opening statements Monday, defense lawyers ripped the government's choice of key witnesses, saying they were all criminals who cut deals to save themselves, and said that any video poker machines were "for amusement only," licensed and perfectly legal.

The attorney for mobster Mike Sarno said Sarno had "absolutely nothing to do with" any bombing. However, he conceded that Sarno, a previously convicted racketeer, is "no angel."

The government Monday afternoon called the first few witnesses against the Outfit-Outlaws alliance, mostly to set the foundation for the illegal video poker business that federal agents have long believed is the machine that drives the mob's lucrative -- and illicit -- gambling business.

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