updated 1/11/2007 9:14:37 PM ET 2007-01-12T02:14:37

A federal deputy marshal was charged Thursday with leaking information about a reputed mobster’s cooperation with prosecutors as they investigated the top echelon of Chicago’s organized crime family.

John Thomas Ambrose, 38, a former supervisory inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, surrendered Thursday at the FBI’s Chicago office, officials said.

Ambrose is accused of revealing information concerning the cooperation and travel plans of Nicholas Calabrese, expected to be a key witness in the government’s Operation Family Secrets murder conspiracy case.

Ambrose appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason, who released him on a $50,000 unsecured bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 30. Ambrose declined to comment as he left the courtroom, but defense attorney Francis C. Lipuma told reporters that his client denies violating the law and plans to go to trial.

“John Ambrose is not connected to the mob at all,” Lipuma said.

Prosecutors said Ambrose told them in a Sept. 6 interview that he passed the information to an associate of reputed mob boss John DiFronzo in hopes of getting information on the whereabouts of organized crime figure Joseph Lombardo, a fugitive at the time.

Lipuma said the government’s claim that Ambrose wanted to ingratiate himself to DiFronzo was based on “an FBI agent’s impressions” and was not what Ambrose said.

Lombardo, among those charged in the Operation Family Secrets indictment, was subsequently captured and is due to stand trial in May.

Calabrese, 63, of Chicago, is among 15 defendants charged in a sweeping indictment alleging a long-term conspiracy by Chicago mobsters to commit at least 18 murders.

The victim include Tony Spilotro, the mob’s one-time man in Las Vegas, who was beaten to death and buried in a corn field.

Gary Shapiro, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, said that the alleged leak “constitutes an egregious breach of his law enforcement duties” but that there is no evidence Calabrese or other witnesses were ever in danger.

Ambrose has been on leave since September. He is charged with theft of government property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

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