CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team has learned a once-high ranking Chicago mobster now claims COVID-19 is threatening his life.
Mike Sarno is the latest Outfit member to play the coronavirus card in an attempt to get out of prison early.
This past century, the Chicago Outfit hasn't exactly been known for job security or the longevity of its top men. But, even in a business notorious for hit-men and torture, there may never have been a menace as feared as COVID-19.
In his younger days, Sarno was being groomed for big things in the Chicago Outfit, according to federal investigators. Even his nickname was changed from "Fat Boy" to "The Large Guy."
But then he got in trouble with the law. In the early 90s, he went away for racketeering, gambling and extortion. When he got out, his underworld career took off, and in a groundbreaking co-op with the Outlaw biker gang, Sarno took the Outfit into a new realm.
In 2008, the feds busted that Outlaw-Outfit coalition of gambling businesses and a robbery crew, and Sarno landed back in prison in a case that also involved the bombing of a Berwyn competitor.
This time, Sarno was sentenced 25 years.
As of Tuesday night, he was listed at the Petersburg federal prison in Virginia.
"I mean he's at a severe risk for exposure to COVID. He has chronic obstructive asthma. He has an edema of the lung, along with a multitude of other health issues. He's currently confined to a wheelchair," said John Chwarzynski Jr., Sarno's attorney.
In a newly filed motion in Chicago, Sarno asked for compassionate release -- 12 years early -- from a prison system battling coronavirus.
"Mr. Sarno is not a threat to the public. He is not a violent person, and the evidence at his trial proved that he was not a violent person," Chwarzynski said.
The new filing also contrasts him to Chicago mobster Mario Rainone, a mob enforcer who was released early this summer from a gun sentence due to COVID-19 concerns.
"Mr. Sarno's charges and convictions are nothing compared to what Mr. Rainone's were," Chwarzynski told the I-Team.
Sarno has told the court that if released, he plans to reside with his wife, children and young grandchild in Chicago's suburbs.
For now though, his family and attorney don't know exactly where he is. It's unclear if he's already been moved to a medical facility. Bureau of Prisons officials haven't told them and won't tell the I-Team. A judge is giving the government until a week from Friday to respond to Sarno's motion for release.