Jury convicts 3 mobsters in decades-old murders

Times Staff Writer

A federal jury convicted three aging organized-crime figures Thursday of 10 murders that date back nearly four decades -- a series of bloody, often gruesome killings forgotten by many amid this city’s notoriously corrupt and violent history.

But when the verdict was read inside the Dirksen Federal Building, all that mattered to the families of the victims was that the cases were finally resolved:

* Frank Calabrese Sr., 70, who prosecutors say was once a ruthless hit man, was found guilty in connection with the murders of seven people -- including William and Charlotte Dauber, who were gunned down in 1980 on a deserted road, and trucking executive Michael Cagnoni, who was killed by a car bombing in 1981.


* James Marcello, 65, who authorities believe led Chicago’s “Outfit” in recent years, was convicted in connection with the case’s two most infamous murders: those of Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, the Chicago mob’s chief enforcer in Las Vegas, and his brother Michael. The two men were severely beaten, and their bodies were found buried in an Indiana cornfield in June 1986.

* Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, 78, a longtime mob figure who eluded police for months when indicted in 2005, was found responsible for the murder of Daniel Seifert. Seifert was a federal witness who was set to testify against the mob when he was gunned down at his plastics factory -- in front of his wife and his 4-year-old son, Joe.

The conviction came on the anniversary of the 1974 killing. Joe Seifert, now 37, said his lasting memories of his father were from that day.

“It’s an acknowledgment that he did it,” Seifert said, sagging in relief after listening to U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel’s clerk read the verdict. “Let’s see how funny he thinks prison is.”

The verdict marks the second round of convictions in the high-profile “Operation Family Secrets” federal corruption case.

Earlier this month, the same jury convicted the three men, another elderly mob figure and a retired police officer on federal racketeering charges in connection with these and eight other slayings, which took place from 1970 to 1986.


The jury remained deadlocked, however, on those eight cases. One murder charge was tied to fellow mob defendant Paul “The Indian” Schiro. Another was allegedly connected to Marcello. Six more were blamed on Calabrese.

Joseph Lopez, Calabrese’s defense attorney, left the courthouse promising to appeal the verdict.

He told reporters it was impossible for Calabrese to get a fair trial in Chicago.

“All that publicity prior to trial, the shows that they make in Hollywood, it’s crazy,” Lopez said.

Indeed, mob-history fans flocked to the downtown courthouse this summer, spending weeks spellbound by testimony revealing the secret lives of mobsters.

But for Patrick Spilotro, whose brothers were killed, this was more than just the latest chapter in the city’s mob history. He clung to his wife’s hand and studied Marcello’s weathered face as the verdict was read. Marcello ignored them.

“We’re just so thankful that it’s done,” Spilotro told reporters afterward.