An admitted murderer whose careless blunder at the scene of the crime set the stage for Chicago’s biggest mob trial in years testified Monday that his own brother was an accomplice.
“Did you in fact murder John Fecarotta?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell Mars asked star witness Nicholas Calabrese, whose brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., is one of five reputed mob figures charged at the trial.
“Yes,” Calabrese said. Mars then asked who was with him at the time.
“My brother, Frank, and Johnny Apes,” the witness testified, referring to the late mob boss John Monteleone by his underworld nickname.
Fecarotta, a loan shark and former union official, was gunned down in front of a North Side pool parlor in September 1986. Nicholas Calabrese has pleaded guilty in the racketeering conspiracy case and admits killing Fecarotta. He says he was wounded himself in the exchange of gunfire.
Nicholas Calabrese left a bloody glove at the scene that contained his DNA.
Eager to escape the execution chamber, he made a deal to tell what he knows about the mob, and the result was crucial in bringing the racketeering conspiracy to trial in federal court.
It was the second time in two weeks that a relative of Frank Calabrese testified against him. Last week, his own son, Frank Calabrese Jr., said his father ushered him into a life of loan sharking and extortion.
Besides Frank Calabrese, 69, those on trial are James Marcello, 65; Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, 78; convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 70, and retired Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, 62.
The five defendants are accused to taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that included loan sharking, extortion of “street tax” from businesses, illegal gambling and 18 mob hits, including Fecarotta’s.
Testifying under a grant of immunity from prosecution, Nicholas Calabrese spoke without looking at his brother. But Frank Calabrese looked at him, sometimes smiling and whispering to attorney Joseph Lopez.
'Chances are you'd be dead'
Federal prosecutors already have played a tape for jurors, made secretly at a federal prison in Michigan, on which Frank Calabrese is heard saying that he would be in favor of murdering Nicholas if he cooperated with prosecutors. The tape was made by Frank Calabrese Jr.
Among other things, the witness said his brother was unhappy that Doyle planned to leave the mob to join the Chicago police department.
“He didn’t want to lose him because he was a good man ... as a juice loan collector and maybe more,” said Nicholas Calabrese. “Juice” is a mob word for interest that organized crime loan sharks charge customers. The interest can reach as high as 500 percent annually.
Nicholas Calabrese testified that he delivered some of the proceeds from loan sharking and extortion on a regular basis to the boss of the 26th Street or Chinatown crew of the Chicago Outfit.
“If you didn’t pay, first they’d call you to find out why there’s no money,” he testified. “If you didn’t go, chances are you’d be dead.”
“Who decided what to tax bookmakers?” Mars asked. “Frank did,” Nicholas Calabrese answered.
Nicholas Calabrese has been in federal prison since the mid-1990s for loan sharking and could receive a sentence that would keep him behind bars for the rest of his life, although prosecutors will write to U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel to evaluate his cooperation.