Chicago Outfit
AlCaponemugshotCPD-2.jpg
Former Chicago Outfit leader Al Capone
Founded1910; 112 years ago (1910)
FounderBig Jim Colosimo
Founding locationChicago, Illinois, United States
Years active1910–present
TerritoryPrimarily the Chicago metropolitan area and the surrounding Midwest, with additional territory in Las Vegas,[1] Phoenix,[2] South Florida and Southern California[3]
EthnicityItalians as "made men" and other ethnicities as associates
Membership (est.)60 made members and 100+ associates (according to the testimony of Nick Calabrese in 2012)
ActivitiesRacketeering, bribery, conspiracy, burglary, coercion, labor police corruption, hijacking, loansharking, drug trafficking, fencing, bootlegging, fraud, money laundering, murder, torture, illegal gambling and extortion[4]
AlliesCleveland crime family
Denver crime family
Detroit Partnership
Five Families
Kansas City crime family
Los Angeles crime family[5][6]
Milwaukee crime family
New Orleans crime family
Patriarca crime family
Philadelphia crime family
St. Louis crime family
12th Street Players
Insane Popes
Simon City Royals
C-Notes[7]
RivalsVarious Chicago gangs, historically the North Side Gang and Irish Mob

The Chicago Outfit (also known as the Outfit, the Chicago Mafia, the Chicago Mob, the Chicago crime family, the South Side Gang or The Organization) is an Italian-American organized crime syndicate or crime family based in Chicago, Illinois, which dates from the 1910s. It is part of the larger Italian-American Mafia and originated in South Side, Chicago.

The Outfit rose to power in the 1920s under the control of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone and the period was marked by bloody gang wars for control of the distribution of illegal alcohol during Prohibition. Since then, the Outfit has been involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including loansharking, illegal gambling, prostitution, extortion, political corruption and murder. Capone was convicted of income tax evasion in 1931 and the Outfit was next run by Paul Ricca. He shared power with Tony Accardo from 1943 until his death in 1972; Accardo became the sole power in the Outfit upon Ricca's death and was one of the longest sitting bosses of all time upon his death in the early 1990s.

Though it has never had a complete monopoly on organized crime in Chicago, the Outfit has long been the most powerful, violent and largest criminal organization in Chicago and the Midwest in general. Unlike other mafia factions such as the Five Families of New York City, the Outfit has been a unified faction since its conception.[8] Its influence at its peak stretched as far as California, Florida and Nevada and it continues to operate throughout the Midwestern United States and Southern Florida, as well as Las Vegas and other parts of the Southwestern United States. Higher law enforcement attention and general attrition have led to its gradual decline since the late 20th century, though it continues to be one of the major and most active organized crime groups in the Chicago metropolitan area and Midwest.

History

Origins

The early years of organized crime in Chicago, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were marked by the division of various street gangs controlling the South Side and North Side, as well as the Black Hand organizations of Little Italy. In later years, the Outfit consisted of various street crews controlling different territories around Chicago. Including Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Chicago Heights, Rush Street, Grand Avenue and Chinatown.[8]

Big Jim Colosimo centralized control in the early 20th century. Colosimo was born in Calabria, Italy, in 1878, immigrated to Chicago in 1895, where he established himself as a criminal. By 1909, with the help of bringing Johnny Torrio from New York to Chicago, he was successful enough that he was encroaching on the criminal activity of the Black Hand organization.[9][10] Colosimo, also “cultivated deep political connections'' after “serving as a precinct captain in the organization of First Ward Alderman Couglin and Kenna, and later [became] the bagman (collector of illegal profits and dispenser of bribes) in the vice-laden Levee District, which afforded him with blanket political protection”.[11]

Prohibition and Al Capone

In 1919, Capone also left New York for Chicago at the invitation of Torrio. Capone began in Chicago as a bouncer in a brothel, where he contracted syphilis. Timely use of Salvarsan probably could have cured the infection, but he apparently never sought treatment.[12]

When Prohibition went into effect in 1920, Torrio pushed for the gang to enter into bootlegging, but Colosimo stubbornly refused. In March 1920, Colosimo secured an uncontested divorce from his wife, and Torrio's cousin, Victoria Moresco.[13] A month later, he and singer Dale Winter eloped to West Baden Springs, Indiana. Upon their return, he bought a home on the South Side.[13] On May 11, 1920, Torrio called and told Colosimo that a shipment was about to arrive at his restaurant. Colosimo drove there to await it, but instead, he was ambushed and shot to death.[14]

With the start of Prohibition in the United States, new Outfit boss Torrio and his underboss Al Capone saw an opportunity for the Outfit in Chicago to make money and to further expand their criminal empire by racketeering small businesses. With Capone taking the role of an actual businessman and partner of the owner, the Outfit had a legitimate way to source their money, which prevented incrimination and unnecessary attention from law enforcement.[15]

Torrio headed an essentially Italian organized crime group that was the biggest in the city, with Capone as his right-hand man. He was wary of being drawn into gang wars and tried to negotiate agreements over territory between rival crime groups. The smaller North Side Gang led by Dean O'Banion (also known as Dion O'Banion) was of mixed ethnicity, and it came under pressure from the Genna brothers who were allied with Torrio. O'Banion found that Torrio was unhelpful with the encroachment of the Gennas into the North Side, despite his pretensions to be a settler of disputes.[16] The "Terrible" Genna brothers, as they were known, consisted of Peter, James, Angelo, Tony, Sam and Mike "The Devil" Genna. They were known for their ruthlessness and intemperate disposition.[17] In a fateful step, Torrio either arranged for or acquiesced to the murder of O'Banion at his flower shop on November 10, 1924. This placed Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. Weiss had been a close friend of O'Banion and the North Siders made it a priority to get revenge on his killers.[18][19][20]

At the end of 1924, the Torrio-Capone gang had between 300-400 members, while the North Side gang could count on around 200 soldiers.[21]

In January 1925, Capone was ambushed, leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, on January 24, Torrio was returning from a shopping trip with his wife Anna, when he was shot several times. After recovering, he effectively resigned and handed control to Capone, age 26, who became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada, with political and law-enforcement protection.[22] Torrio greatly influenced modern organized crime, he retired to New York and acted as an advisor to the New York Mafia in helping form the "Commission".[23] In turn, Capone was able to use more violence to increase revenue. An establishment that refused to purchase liquor from him often got blown up and as many as 100 people were killed in such bombings during the 1920s. 1925-1926 were the most violent years of Chicago's "Beer Wars" in which 133 gangsters were murdered.[17] Rivals saw Capone as responsible for the proliferation of brothels in the city.[20][24][25][26]

Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang. On that fateful and cold February morning, 4 Capone henchmen (two dressed as Chicago policemen) entered the S.M.C Cartage Company garage located at 2122 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL to find 7 men, which included 5 of Moran's soldiers, an auto mechanic and a friend of the gangsters, awaiting a shipment of highjacked booze. All 7 men were lined up against the wall in a mock police raid and shot to death. Moran escaped his fate narrowly by accidentally arriving late to the meeting.[17] Moran was the last survivor of the North Side gunmen; his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader Dean O'Banion.[27][28][29]

Capone was convicted on three counts of income tax evasion on October 17, 1931[30][31][32] and was sentenced a week later to 11 years in federal prison, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes.[33][34][35][36] Capone later died of heart failure as a result of apoplexy on January 25, 1947.[37][38]

From Nitti to Accardo

1930s–1950s

In 1931, Nitti was also convicted of tax evasion and sent to prison; however, Nitti received an 18-month sentence.[39] When Nitti was released on March 25, 1932, he took his place as the new boss of the Capone Gang.[39] Some revisionist historians claim that Nitti was a mere "front boss" while Paul "The Waiter" Ricca was the actual boss of the Chicago Outfit.[40]

Over the next decade, The Outfit moved into labor racketeering, gambling, and loan sharking. Geographically, this was the period when Outfit muscle extended to Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, Kansas City, and especially to Hollywood and other California cities, where The Outfit's extortion of labor unions gave it leverage over the motion picture industry.

In the early 1940s, a handful of top Outfit leaders went to prison because they were found to be extorting Hollywood by controlling the unions that compose Hollywood's movie industry, and manipulating and misusing the Teamsters Central States Pension fund.[41] In 1943, the Outfit was caught red-handed shaking down the Hollywood movie industry. Ricca wanted Nitti to take the fall. However, Nitti had found that he was claustrophobic, years earlier while in jail for 18 months (for tax evasion), and he decided to end his life rather than face more imprisonment for extorting Hollywood. Ricca then became the boss in name as well as in fact, with enforcement chief Tony Accardo as underboss—the start of a partnership that lasted for almost 30 years. Around this time, the Outfit began bringing in members of the Forty-Two Gang, a notoriously violent youth gang. Among them were Sam "Momo" Giancana, Sam "Mad Sam" DeStefano, Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, and Fiore "Fifi" Buccieri.

Ricca was sent to prison later in 1943 for his part in The Outfit plot to control Hollywood. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, along with a number of other mobsters. Through the "magic" of political connections, the whole group of Outfit mobsters was released after three years, largely due to the efforts of Outfit "fixer" Murray "The Camel" Humphreys. Ricca could not associate with mobsters as a condition of his parole. Accardo nominally took power as boss, but actually shared power with Ricca, who continued behind the scenes as a senior consultant—one of the few instances of shared power in organized crime.

Accardo joined Ricca in semi-retirement in 1957 due to some "heat" that he was getting from the IRS. From then on, Ricca and Accardo allowed several others to nominally serve as boss, such as Giancana, Alderisio, Joey Aiuppa, William "Willie Potatoes" Daddano, and Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone. Most of the front bosses originated from the Forty-Two Gang. However, no major business transactions took place without Ricca and Accardo's knowledge and approval, and certainly no "hits". By staying behind the scenes, Ricca and Accardo lasted far longer than Capone. Ricca died in 1972, leaving Accardo as the sole power behind the scenes.

1960s–1990s

During the 1960 presidential election, many claim that the Mafia, and in particular, the Chicago Outfit, boosted candidate and president John F. Kennedy. The strategy for boosting votes for Kennedy essentially ran through the mafia-controlled unions, physically threatening those who did not vote for Kennedy. It was even said that Joseph Kennedy held a meeting with mob boss Sam Giancana before the election.[42] Supposedly the Kennedy’s and the Mafia agreed that if John were elected president, he would lighten the pursuit of authorities on the mob group. However, after the election, President Kennedy turned on Giancana. Theories say this is what led to his and Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Further, many believe the Outfit was involved in a Central Intelligence Agency–Mafia collusion during Castro's overthrow of the Cuban government. In exchange for its help, the Outfit was to be given access to its former casinos if it helped overthrow Fidel Castro in Operation Mongoose or Operation Family Jewels.[43] The Outfit failed in that endeavor and faced increasing indictments under the administration of President John F. Kennedy (JFK).

The Outfit reached the height of its power in the early 1960s. Accardo used the Teamsters pension fund, with the aid of Meyer Lansky, Sidney Korshak, and Jimmy Hoffa, to engage in massive money laundering through the Outfit's casinos. The 1970s and 1980s were a hard time for the Outfit, as law enforcement continued to penetrate the organization, spurred by poll-watching politicians. Off-track betting reduced bookmaking profits, and illicit casinos withered under competition from legitimate casinos. Activities such as auto theft and professional sports betting did not replace the lost profits.

The Outfit controlled casinos in Las Vegas and "skimmed" millions of dollars over the course of several decades. Most recently, top mob figures have been found guilty of crimes dating back to as early as the mid-1960s. It has been rumored that the $2 million skimmed from the casinos in the Court case of 1986 was used to build the Old Neighborhood Italian American Club, the founder of which was Angelo J. "The Hook" LaPietra.

Allen Dorfman, a key figure in the Outfit's money embezzlement operations, was investigated by the Department of Justice. In 1982, the FBI wire-tapped Dorfman's personal and company phone lines and was able to gather the evidence needed to convict Dorfman and several of his associates on attempts to bribe a state senator to get rid of the trucking industry rates. If Dorfman succeeded, the Outfit would have seen a huge gain of profit. This was known as Operation Pendorf and was a huge blow to the Chicago crime syndicate.[44]

Operation GAMBAT (GAMBling ATtorney) proved to be a crippling blow to the Outfit's tight grip on the Chicago political machine. Pat Marcy, a made man in the Outfit, ran the city's First Ward, which represented most of downtown Chicago. Marcy and company controlled the circuit courts from the 1950s until the late 1980s with the help of Alderman Fred Roti and Democratic Committeeman John D'Arco Sr. Together, the First Ward fixed cases involving everything from minor traffic violations to murder.

Attorney and First Ward associate Robert Cooley was one of the lawyers who represented many mafiosi and associates in which cases were fixed. As a trusted man within the First Ward, Cooley was asked to "take out" a city police officer. Cooley was also an addicted gambler and in debt, so he approached the U.S. Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force, declaring that he wanted to "destroy Marcy and the First Ward".

Cooley was soon in touch with the FBI and began cooperating as a federal informant. Through the years, he maintained close ties to Marcy and the big shots of the First Ward. He wore an electronic surveillance device, recording valuable conversations at the notorious "First Ward Table", located at "Counselor's Row" across the street from Chicago City Hall. The results in Operation Gambat (Gambling Attorney) were convictions of 24 corrupt judges, lawyers, and cops.

Accardo died in 1992.[45] In a measure of how successfully he had managed to stay out of the limelight, he never spent a day in jail (or only spent one day, depending on the source) despite an arrest record dating to 1922. Chicago's transition from Accardo to the next generation of Outfit bosses has been more of an administrative change than a power struggle, distinct from the way that organized crime leadership transitions take place in New York City.

List of Chicago Outfit related murders

Name Date Rank Reason
Ray Ryan October 18, 1977 Associate Ryan was blown up in a car bomb in the parking lot of his Evansville, Indiana health club. Ryan had testified against Marshall Caifano in an extortion case and had tried to bribe his way out of a murder contract upon Caifano's release from prison.
Stevie Garcia February 2, 1978 Associate Chicago Outfit burglar, he was found inside the trunk of a car at the Sheraton Hotel next to O’Hare International Airport with multiple stab wounds including slashed from ear to ear, he was suspected of breaking into the home of Anthony Accardo.
Vince Moretti and Don Renno February 4, 1978 Associate & Associate Moretti was an ex-cop and Chicago Outfit burglar. Moretti was castrated and disembowelled, his face had been burned off with an acetylene torch and he and Renno also had their throats slashed.[46]
James "Jimmy the Bomber" Catuara July 28, 1978 Captain Shot dead aged 72 in Cook County, Illinois behind the wheel of a Cadillac, paving the way for Albert Tocco to grab complete control of the Chicago Heights crew and the Outfit's lucrative chop-shop tax.[47] Catuara's crew allegedly oversaw illegal gambling and prostitution.
Michael Volpe October 5, 1978 Associate Accardo's longtime housekeeper vanishes. The FBI allege his disappearance is in connection to Volpe's testimony to a federal grand jury five days previous.[48]
Anthony "Little Tony" Borsellino May 22, 1979 Soldier Borsellino, known as a Chicago Outfit hitman, was found shot five times in the back of the head and dumped in a Frankfort farm field. He was killed as a result of falling out with Gerry Scarpelli.
Timmy O'Brien May 23, 1979 Associate O'Brien, a salvage yard owner and former friend and business partner of Richie Ferraro is found shot to death in the trunk of his car in Blue Island, Illinois.

21st century

Higher law enforcement investigations and general attrition led to the Outfit's gradual decline since the late 20th century. The Old Neighborhood Italian American Club is considered to be the hangout of Old Timers as they live out their golden years.[citation needed] The club's founder was Angelo J. LaPietra "The Hook", who was the main Council at the time of his death in 1999.

On April 25, 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice launched Operation Family Secrets,[49] which indicted 14 Outfit members and associates under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), including Joseph Lombardo, Nicholas Calabrese, Frank Calabrese Sr. and James Marcello. U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel presided over the Family Secrets trial. The federal prosecutors were Mitchell A. Mars, T. Markus Funk, and John Scully. Nicholas Calabrese, facing a life sentence, became the first "made" member of the Chicago Outfit to become a witness for the federal government.[8]Calabrese gave information on 14 murders he was personally involved with and knowledge of 22 killings during the past 30 years.[8]

As of 2007, the Outfit's size is estimated to be 28 official members (composing its core group) and more than 100 associates.[50]

From 1996 to 2018, the Chicago Outfit was believed to be led by John DiFronzo.[51] As of 2021, the Chicago Outfit is believed to be led by Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis.[52]

Historical leadership

Bosses (Official And Acting)

Name and nickname(s) Image Tenure Notes
Vincenzo Colosimo
Big Jim, Diamond Jim
James "Big Jim" Colosimo.jpg
1910 1920 Murdered on May 11, 1920.
John D. Torrio
Papa Johnny, The Fox
Johnny Torrio - 1939.jpg
1920 1925 Retired in 1925 after an assassination attempt.
Alphonse "Al" Capone
Al Brown, Scarface, Snorky
AlCaponemugshotCPD-2.jpg
1925 1931 Sentenced for tax evasion in 1931.
Ralph Capone (Acting)
Bottles
1929 1930 stepped down.
Frank Nitti
(Born Francesco Nitto)
The Enforcer
1931 1943 Committed suicide in 1943.
Paul Ricca
(Born Felice DeLucia)
The Waiter
Ricca.jpg
1943 1947 Sentenced for extortion in 1943; stepped down in 1947.
Anthony "Tony" Accardo[53]
(Born Antonino Accardo)
Joe Batters, Big Tuna
Tony Accardo 1960.jpg
1947 1957 Stepped down in 1957, becoming a "shadow executive" of the mob.
Salvatore "Sam" Giancana
Mooney, Mo, Momo
Sam Giancana.jpg
1957 1966 Fled to Mexico to avoid imprisonment in 1966, deposed by Ricca and Accardo.
Samuel Battaglia
(Born Salvatore Battaglia)
Teets
Battaglia2.png
1966 1967 Sentenced for violating the Hobbs Act in 1967.
Felix Alderisio
Milwaukee Phil
1967 1971 Sentenced for extortion in 1967–1969, deceased in 1971.
Joseph Aiuppa
Joey Doves, Joey O'Brien
Aiuppa.jpg
1971 1986 Sentenced for skimming in 1986.
Joseph Ferriola
Joe Nagall, Mr. Clean
1986 1989 Deceased from heart troubles in 1989.
Samuel Carlisi
Sam Wings, Black Sam
1989 1996 Sentenced for racketeering in 1993–1994 and 1996, deceased in 1997.
John DiFronzo
No Nose
John difronzo.jpg
1996 2014 Semi-retired in 2014, deceased from Alzheimer's disease in 2018.
Salvatore DeLaurentis
Solly D
2014 Present

Street boss

The street boss is a high-ranking member appointed to run the outfit's daily activities for the boss. The position was created to protect the boss from federal investigations.

Underboss

Consigliere

Current family members

Administration

Capos

Soldiers

Associates

Government informants and witnesses

The Outfit is notable for having had other ethnic groups besides Italians as high-ranking associates since the family's earliest days. A prime example of this was Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, who was the top "bagman" and "accountant" for decades until his death. He was a Polish Jew. Others were Murray Humphreys, who was of Welsh descent, and Ken Eto (aka Tokyo Joe), who was Japanese-American.

Another well-known associate of the Outfit is Jewish New York City mobster Benjamin Siegel. Siegel was a childhood friend of Capone.[129] Siegel's organization in Las Vegas and Los Angeles was an ally of the Outfit from 1933 to 1961 when the family boss, Mickey Cohen, was imprisoned and the family was decimated.

In popular culture

The Chicago Outfit has a long history of portrayal in Hollywood as the subject of film and television.

Film

Television

Anime

See also

References

Citations

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General references