75 years to the day after Al Capone's death, it's not your father's Chicago Outfit

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The most notorious hoodlum in Chicago history died on Jan. 25, 1947, and while the criminal organization Al Capone built remains a powerhouse 75 years later, more than a few things have changed.

Unlike the Scarface era, now only mob experts would be able to name the current Chicago Outfit boss.

There are not as many bosses because there are fewer street crews. With fewer street crews, there are fewer mob soldiers, who are needed to run a declining number of criminal rackets.

Despite a diminished crime syndicate in Chicago, the organization's bones are in place seven and a half decades after Capone's reign officially ended. However, 2022 has not been business-as-usual for the crime organization, according to Chicago mob expert and "The Chicago Outfit" author John Binder.

"I think Al Capone would say, 'who made all this stuff we used to do legal?'" Binder said, referring to legalization of gambling and marijuana in Illinois. Those were among the staples of Capone-era businesses.

"Good God, the state of Illinois has legalized the lottery, has legalized video poker machines, which are essentially just slot machines," Binder said. "The state of Illinois has legalized betting on professional and college sports."

Core mob businesses, known as "rackets," still include illegal gambling, according to law enforcement officials. Organized crime may offer slightly better odds than legitimate wagering businesses and allow state-banned gamblers to place bets. It will loan money to unlucky bettors, known as "juice loans." They are short-term loans that carry heavy interest rates and the threat of broken legs, or worse, for untimely payments.

The modern mob is also still into traditional criminal rackets, including labor union corruption, prostitution, illegal drugs and lately even armed robberies if the goods are good enough, Binder said. The Outfit's "golden rule" hasn't changed in 75 years since Capone died.

"They'll do essentially what they think they can get away with," Binder said.

One thing the mob doesn't do anymore is kill people, or at least not as of late. As the I-Team has previously reported, more than 1,100 people fell victim to gangland hits between the 1920s and the new Millennium, with most murders happening in the beginning of that era.

Bodies would regularly turn up riddled with bullets as part of an Outfit plot. So many corpses were found in car trunks over the decades that the mob called them "trunk music." The definition of that phrase was provided by one Outfit boss on an FBI recording as "the gurgling sound" made by a decaying human body under the lid of closed trunk.

Authorities believe there hasn't been a Chicago mob murder since Anthony "Little Tony" Zizzo disappeared in 2006. Although Zizzo's body has never been found, the high-ranking boss is believed to have been abducted and disposed of by mob rivals.

"It's been quite a few years since they've been putting dumping bodies on the streets" said Binder. "They're staying very, very low key, under the radar while authorities to some extent are focusing attention more heavily elsewhere."

For decades, police departments, federal law enforcement and the Chicago Crime Commission published intricate family trees that charted who was running what for the Outfit. Those well-publicized diagrams haven't been provided in years, insiders say because of the manpower cost in surveillance and research. They have also said the legal liability of branding hundreds of people as criminals, regardless of whether they were ever charged, is a contributing factor.

Most of the top organized crime figures on those lists have died, although a few are in prison. One man, 83-year-old Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis is considered to be the current leader of the Outfit, according to mob investigators.

"It's a business where experience counts for something," Binder said DeLaurentis, who was released from federal prison in 2006 and currently resides in the far northwest suburbs. He was the one who provided the definition for "trunk music."

DeLaurentis replaced the last Chicago hoodlum who might have been publicly recognized, perhaps because of his mob nickname, John "No Nose" DiFronzo.

That moniker was awarded to DiFronzo decades ago when he did a forward dive through a plate glass window during a Michigan Avenue heist and lost a good portion of his nose to jagged glass. DiFronzo survived the nostril reconstruction and decades of mob infighting before dying of natural causes in 2018.

It is, however, Al Capone's name has survived 75 years following his death from syphilis complications while residing on Palm Island near Miami Beach, Florida.

"Unlike some historical figures, he has crossed over to become a legend," said Binder. "He's an interesting individual. He lived in a very interesting time in an interesting place and was involved in interesting things. Not necessarily good things or lawful things, but you put all of those together and I think that's the same mix of things that makes the Jesse James a legend or Billy the Kid a legend."
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