Auction of mobster's money brings in big cash

Sept. 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

According to a record made public Thursday in the Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese court file, the U.S. Marshal's Service and a Texas auction house sold 125 rare $1,000 and $500 bills that were found concealed in Calabrese's Oak Brook home.

Calabrese is serving a life sentence for running outfit rackets and committing gangland murders.

After he was convicted in the Operation Family Secrets mob trial, federal agents found money hidden in his basement. Loose diamonds, and other expensive jewelry had been tucked behind a family portrait and the drywall.

There was $750,000 in cash, according to authorities, some of it in unusually large bills.

Calabrese had dozens of $1,000 and $500 bills, printed in the 1920s and 30s, that the government auctioned to help satisfy the mobster's fines and court-ordered restitution. About $30,000 went to fees and expenses leaving $215,127 to go toward Calabrese's more than $4 million payback.

The rare bills, many in mint condition, were sold during a two-week online auction. The bidding for each piece of currency started at over face value. The bill that brought in the most money was a $1000 note from 1934. It sold for $4850.

Most 80-year-old currency is so worn that the government shreds it.

Today, the highest denomination printed by the government is $100. So, well-preserved, high denomination currency is frequently worth more than its face value.

In some recent auctions of similar $1,000 currency, individual bills have gone for eight or nine times the face value.

The government's auction began online on August 9 and went through August 23. It featured 43 of Calabrese's bills of $1,000 denomination and 82 bills with a face value of $500.

The other Calabrese property, including 1,000 pieces of diamond jewelry, will be auctioned off as well someday.

One thing not on the sale block: More than a dozen audio tapes that were found hidden in Calabrese's basement. Federal authorities have never revealed what was recorded on them and why they were so important that they were stashed with the cash.

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