As underworld workforce ages, John "Pudgy" Matassa claims he's sickly in move for sentencing delay

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Lawyers for a former Chicago labor leader and made-member of the Chicago Outfit according to investigators-have convinced a judge to stall sentencing for embezzlement because of "a significant number of serious medical conditions."

John A. Matassa Jr., known in mob circles as "Pudgy" due to his vertical and horizontal dimensions, pleaded guilty last February in a scheme aimed at fraudulently qualifying for early retirement benefits. Matassa, 67, was to be sentenced in two weeks on May 22, but now claims he has to visit his cardiologist and may need heart surgery.

His new sentencing date is July 22 according to court records.

According to a newly-filed defense request, the high-ranking Chicago hoodlum suffers from "coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

Matassa's maladies are seen as a reflection of the aging upper crust of the Chicago Outfit. Many Outfit leaders who began ascending the mob's ranks between the 1950's and 70's are either dead, in failing health or in prison.

Organized crime bosses in Chicago and New York have been seen the past few years hobbling into courtrooms, steadied by canes and walkers, or being pushed in wheelchairs by federal marshals.

Prosecutors did not oppose a delay in Matassa's sentencing. In the government's sentencing memorandum filed late Wednesday, they asked U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly to sentence Matassa to between 27 and 33 months imprisonment. They also recognize his health situation in the filing, and acknowledge "that it would be appropriate for the Court to consider defendant's various medical conditions when determining defendant's sentence."

Matassa was secretary-treasurer of the Independent Union of Amalgamated Workers Local 711 in 2013 and allegedly put his wife on the union payroll in a no-show job.

As the I-Team reported in 2017, the Arlington Heights resident used his wife Lynn's bogus union position so he could apply for early retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration, authorities charge. The SSA Old-Age Insurance program listed his reduced salary which enabled him to qualify for those benefits, the indictment alleged. A federal grand jury also accused Matassa of personally signing his wife's paychecks from the union and having them deposited into the couple's bank account.

In his agreement with prosecutors, Matassa pled guilty to one count of embezzlement.

"For nearly four years, defendant defrauded the Union, spent most of the Union's revenue on salary for himself and his wife, and spent thousands of dollars of the Union's money on restaurant bills, food purchases, and gas and maintenance for his car" prosecutors state in Wednesday's filing.

They also say he not only defrauded the union, but that it was a precursor to a fraud on the Social Security Administration.

In the Outfit's heyday, old age was something most gangsters didn't have to plan for. Their rich, high-stress lifestyle was a recipe for heart attacks that took down many of them at early ages, such as Al Capone when he was just 48-years-old from cardiac arrest. Otherwise many others were taken down by gangland assassins as a cost-of-doing mob business.

Although, in the organized crime world, not all illnesses are created equal. Some mob leaders and soldiers have concocted afflictions to gain the sympathy of judges and juries. Against a backdrop of legal briefs that often read like medical journals and battles between doctors for both defendants and the government, the so-called "decrepit defense" has taken root.

They may have faced legitimate health problems-including bullets that bounced once off the skull of mobster Ken Eto-but some Outfit bosses seemed to become more infirm each time they arrived at court.

Although they may have faced legitimate health problems-including bullets that bounced once off the skull of mobster Ken Eto, some Outfit bosses became more infirm each time they arrived at court.

One of the most notorious cases involved Vincent "Chin" Gigante, a mob contract killer in New York. Despite a successful mafia career, Gigante spent years feigning insanity by conversing with parking meters and strolling into court wearing a bathrobe and slippers. Chin's aberrant public displays earned him the secondary nickname of "The Oddfather."

There is no insinuation or allegation by the government that Pudgy Matassa is using illness to delay justice from being carried out. According to his motion for a delayed sentencing, Matassa was undergoing a stress test last week that had to be stopped "for Mr. Matassa's safety." The court filing states that he had "problems with one of his heart valves."

His attorneys did not respond to an I-Team request for additional information, but they state in court records that Matassa's cardiologist will "need to do some additional testing to determine the prognosis and appropriate treatment and that the potential treatments range from minimal invasive surgery all the way to possible full cardiac surgery, similar to bypass surgery."
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