Monday, July 1, 2013

Inside the Outfit: Frank Calabrese Jr Part Two

Frank Jr soon became fully involved with his father in the crew. The Outfit bosses had two crews that they called on when they need to have someone killed ASAP and right.  They would call on Frank’s fathers Chinatown Crew or Butchie Petrocelli's Wild Bunch Crew. Frank Sr was very good at killing and his preferred method was to strangle them and then cut their throats from ear to ear.

Frank Jr was half Irish and in Chicago that would preclude him from becoming a made man in the Outfit.  The Outfit has a long history of having non Italians in powerful roles so Frank Jr had a lot of upward movement available to him.  In 1988 Frank Sr decided it was time for him to make his bones or in layman's terms kill for the Outfit.  Once you kill for the Outfit, that is it, they own you. The plan was for Frank Jr to shoot his target in a car with his Uncle Nicky.   Nicky Calabrese was Frank Senior’s right hand man and he would later admit to 14 murders on behalf of the Outfit. It was strange that Nicky would speak to Frank Sr and get him to change his mind about Frank Jr doing a hit, but he did!  They never went through with the plan, and that was a huge milestone in Frank Jr's life.

Frank Sr was one of the Outfit’s go to killers because he was good at it.  He would take the order and get it done even when it was a friend like Tony Borsellino. Tony was a friend of Frank’s and a guy who many Outfit guys considered a man’s man.  But when the Bosses gave the order, Frank Sr did what he was told to do.  Frank Sr used a rope to choke the life out of his victims, and then used a knife to cut their throat ear to ear just to make sure they were dead.  

The Outfit was at the top of its game.  Then came the burglary of Levinsons Jewelers on North Clark St just before Christmas in 1977.   The owner was a personal friend of Tony Accardo and he asked if Tony could help him get his jewelry back. Tony sent word to all his crews and since the Outfit has a long history of bringing burglars into the organization they quickly recovered the loot.  Tony stashed it in his home in River Forest while he went to Palm Springs for the holiday.  The buglers then did the stupidest move they could have made, they broke into Tony's home and stole back the loot.  Tony was made aware of what happened and he sent word out to kill every one of the buglers involved in the burglaries.  9 men would be murdered over the one Jewelry Store burglary before it was over. When the robbers were turning up dead the FBI began investigating what happened.  No one ever reported the burglary at Tony’s house and Tony would not admit that he ever had the stash or was robbed.  The caretaker of Tony’s home, and a  friend of 40 years, was questioned in front of a grand jury regarding the murders, and he made the mistake of admitting that the house had been robbed.  On his way to Tony’s house to work, he and his Honda both disappeared never to be seen again.   Frank Sr and his crew did a lot of the work required to dispose of the burglars.  As a result, they began killing every top burglar in Chicago because they were never sure exactly who all was involved and who had knowledge of what had happened.  The FBI devoted many men to bringing down Tony and the Outfit for this killing spree.  This is what started the downfall of Frank Sr and many others but it would be years before they felt the full impact.

Frank Jr  tried many ways to break away from the life.   It was all to no avail because his father would just drag him back into the crew.  Finally Frank Jr decided he needed to take money from his father’s stash spot and escape.  He took a duffel bad with 800 thousand dollars in it to start a few businesses.  Frank Sr tracked him down, stuck a pistol in his face, and threatened to kill him unless he became a slave to him.  

On July 28, 1995 Frank Sr, Frank Jr, Nicky Calabrese, And Kurt Calabrese were arrested after an investigation started at an Auto Repair shop.  They were all sentenced to relatively short stints in prison.  Frank jr had a plan to get his life back on track and make a better life for his family.  He was going to use the time in prison to change his life, kick his cocaine habit and move on to better things.  
The prison sentence was his chance to get away, have a few years off and make a clean break.  That was all true until Frank Jr got a transfer to the same prison as his father.  Once together, they talked it out and Frank Sr promised to make a fresh start and leave the Outfit behind.  Frank Jr wanted to believe this and he did until he started hearing about things his father was still doing out on the street.  Frank Jr then took the boldest and most deadly step he would ever take, he typed out a letter to the FBI.  The letter said that he wanted to help them keep his father off the streets and that he wanted no reduction in time.  The FBI followed up on this and soon Frank Jr was wired up in the yard.  They had a belt buckle wire and a headphone wire because everyone on the yard used to wear headphones around their necks.  The one time he came close to getting caught was when the FBI's other wires did not work so he was forced to wear an old school wire that was hidden in an underwear rig.  (I know this device well because one time I was forced to wear this kind of wire and after about an hour it got burning hot and I thought my balls were fried. I ran to the bathroom and that was it for that rig.)  Frank Sr asked to see Frank Jrs new Tattoo on his back, this would mean opening his shirt on the yard, which would mean his microphone would be exposed.  The FBI does not use broadcast wires, they record only.  So there was no back up and on a prison yard he would die quickly if found out.  Luckily, the wire was not discovered and Frank Jr lived.

Frank Jr got all he needed that day about the murders he did and other things.  The tapes would be the basis for the Family Secrets case against the Outfit's top guys.  It would also mark a first with Nicky Calabrese becoming the first made guy in the Outfit to testify in court.  Nicky was caught up after Frank Jr told the FBI about a hit he did where he lost a glove during a struggle for a pistol.  The FBI came to to his cell took his DNA and it was a match.  Nicky knew he was finished once he found out about the DNA, so he too went with Team USA.

People can judge and say what they will about Frank Jr, but they never walked in his shoes.  They have no idea the hell he had lived with as his father became more and more violent towards the family.  He suffered years of abuse and had his life ruined in the process.  He did the only thing he could do to escape the cycle of violence he was caught inside, he flipped on his father and on the Outfit.  

Read all about Frank Calabrese in his book Family Secrets.

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