Notorious Chicago mob boss Joseph 'Joey the Clown' Lombardo dies in prison

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Monday, October 21, 2019
Notorious Chicago mob boss Joseph 'Joey the Clown' Lombardo dies in prison
Infamous Chicago Outfit boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo has died while serving a life sentence. He was 90.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- He was a killer clown.

Joseph Patrick Lombardo Sr., officially Giuseppe Lombardo, allegedly born on New Year's Day in 1929, died Saturday in a Colorado prison where he was serving a life sentence for racketeering, murder and assorted other Outfit crimes.

The conviction that locked up Lombardo for life was during Operation Family Secrets, the 2007 federal prosecution that cleared dozens of unsolved gangland murders from previous decades.

Lombardo - from a large family of nearly a dozen children - became a feared Grand Avenue staple on Chicago's West Side for decades. He was known to the public as "Joey the Clown" for his courtroom antics that included placing a newspaper over his face with eyehole cutouts and a hole for his lit cigarette.

He also enjoyed displaying a psychotic look during mugshots and once had his attorney try to smuggle a helping of Sopressata into federal court.

But he didn't ascend to the upper crust of the Chicago mob by telling jokes and doing pratfalls. He became the head of the Chicago mob by supervising casino skimming, rigging labor contracts, making juice loans at 100% interest, breaking legs, and, if necessary, shooting, blowing up or simply garroting uncooperative customers and underlings.

In organized crime circles, Lombardo was more apt to be called "Lumpy" for his administration of beatings that would result in epidermis lumps on the recipient. He also used the aliases Joe Padula and Joe Cuneo during criminal escapades that spanned more than seven decades.

Lombardo's illicit career was rooted in the 1950's when he found work as a thug for West Side gangsters. At that time, the Chicago Outfit was thriving and a large cast of characters dominated the organized crime world focusing on prostitution, gambling, loansharking, jewel heists, labor racketeering and the various violent methods of controlling those who executed orders for street crews.

Lombardo's ascension to the top rank of the Chicago mob was confirmed by a 1978 photograph that has become know as "The Last Supper" picture. It shows Lombardo dining with the highest ranking hoodlums in the city, including the late godfather Tony Accardo.

With Lombardo's death, every one of the mobsters pictured is now gone. It is proof of how the world of organized crime in Chicago has changed - decimated by death, incarceration and continuing federal scrutiny.

In the early 1980's during a mob trial in Kansas City, Lombardo was handed a 15-year sentence for conspiring to bribe a U.S. senator and a 10-year sentence for skimming $2 million in cash from a mobbed-up casino in Las Vegas. When his term was up, somehow Lombardo finagled a midnight release from a Pennsylvania prison.

He and his brother held a motel pizza party after the prison departure and then drove back to Chicago, managing to evade an I-Team camera crew that was staked out in the same motel. Once Lombardo arrived home on Chicago's West Side he sprinted into his home - this time in view of an ABC7 camera - still living up to his Clown nickname.

Lombardo once took out a newspaper ad stating that he was no longer affiliated with Chicago organized crime, a claim that law enforcement and mobologists never believed.

Lombardo takes a litany of mob secrets to his grave. He never admitted anything, never showed any remorse for a life of crime and to his last breath, fulfilled the Outfit's blood oath of silence known as "omerta."

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