I-Team Report: The Cappas Case

May 18, 2011 (CHICAGO)

John Cappas had the word brash used to describe him so many times back then you'd have thought it was his middle name.

Cappas came to symbolize everything bad about the big-spending, anything goes days of the mid-1980s operating a multi-million dollar drug empire from a fleet of white limousines and flaunting his ill-gotten wealth and his bombshell girlfriend, who helped put Cappas behind bars nearly 25 years ago.

At 21, Cappas was a Chicago drug lord. Three years out of Marist Catholic High School, he was moving multi-kilo quantities of cocaine each week.

With a luxury Lockport home, Cappas was making stacks of cash. His girlfriend was a Playboy model, 18-year-old Julie Ann Craig, who proudly wore a diamond-emblazoned necklace with the letters "spoiled brat.'

When two of his delinquent cocaine customers killed themselves and turned out to be the sons of Chicago police officers, Cappas' kingdom began collapsing.

While never charged with their deaths, in 1988 the feds had infiltrated Cappas' organization. He was convicted and given 45 years, a sentence reduced on appeal. He got out of prison in 2003.

"If you look up John Cappas on YouTube or drug kingpin on YouTube or Google my name, there is 200,000 hits," Cappas told a group of students.

Today, Cappas speaks to students about drug abuse, hires himself out as a motivational speaker and talks up a jailhouse autobiography that he says will be released this August.

Cappas, who also owns a hot dog stand in Markham, became curious when news crews show up, even though he puts his own event videos on YouTube.

Sometimes in speeches, he sounds as cocky as the old days.

"I wouldn't cooperate. I wouldn't testify against any of my buddies; none of the Colombians from Florida; none of the Chicago guys; none of the Italians," said Cappas.

Cappas' girlfriend back then did talk, telling federal drug investigators about his lavish spending, always in cash.

Today, Julie Ann Craig still lives in the south suburbs, raising the teenage daughter she had with ex-Chicago bear and ex-husband Dan Hampton.

This week in Orland Park, Ms. Craig attended her first full meeting as an elected official. She snapped a photo with Orland's mayor Dan McGlaughlin. Craig was sworn in this month as a member of the city library board after ousting an incumbent.

She declined a TV interview by phone explaining, "I went to prom with John Cappas" and I am "so sick of rehashing the past."

The I-Team asked her how she won an election when she didn't campaign. Craig replied, "I'm well-known."

But one thing about her wasn't made known.

When she filed to run and had petitions circulated, Ms. Craig was on court supervision for retail theft from a suburban Macy's. Nine items were stolen, valued at more than $1,000.

According to DuPage County records, Craig pleaded guilty in March 2010 to a reduced misdemeanor, got a year's supervision, fines, fees and community service that ended in early March.

On Wednesday, the I-Team attempted to reach Craig for a response to her guilty plea on criminal retail theft charges but she didn't reply. The technology has changed in 25 years. Ms. Craig and Mr. Cappas are Facebook friends.

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